A Christian woman has been sentenced to hang in Pakistan after being convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammed

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17)

JP: Posting this for two reasons. 1.) So readers may pray; 2.) Illustrates our text for this Sunday so also a good discussion item.

Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan ‘for blasphemy’

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, denies blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

Christian groups and human rights campaigners condemned the verdict and called for the blasphemy laws to be repealed.

Her supporters say she will now appeal against the sentence handed down in a local court in the town of Sheikhupura, near Lahore, Pakistan.

Update on 11/22/2010:

Pakistani President Pardons Christian Woman on Death Row


Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday pardoned Asia Bibi (also referred to as Asia Noreen by some media), the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Bibi, who had been imprisoned for one-and-a-half years without being allowed to give her statement in court, was released soon after the presidential pardon.

“This is the only acceptable outcome to what has been a travesty of justice from the outset,” said Nasir Saeed, coordinator for U.K.-based Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). “Asia Bibi should never have been charged with blasphemy, let alone found guilty and sentenced to death.”

Saeed added, “The ordeal faced by her and her family is unimaginable to most people outside of Pakistan who are largely unaware of the abuse and discrimination faced by the tiny Christian minority there.”

Bibi had signed a petition Saturday appealing for the president’s mercy. The request by the 45-year-old mother of five, of which two are biological, was delivered to Zardari by Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer.

“I have small children,” pleaded Bibi to reporters Saturday from her prison in Punjab province. “For God’s sake, please set me free.”

The now international story began with Muslim women in Bibi’s village accusing her of blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Bibi and her family, however, said she did no such thing. Instead, they said she was falsely accused as revenge over a petty argument she had with fellow field workers.

According to Bibi and her family, the incident that led to her current situation occurred in June 2009. She was picking fruit in the field with fellow Muslim workers and went to get water for the group. Upon returning, the Muslim women in the field refused to drink the water because the container was touched by a Christian.

Bibi was offended and argued with the women, but then afterwards thought nothing of the incident. However, a few days later dozens of Muslims dragged her away.

Her 18-year-old daughter, Sidra, said she witnessed her mother being dragged to a mosque where she was forced to convert to Islam and beaten when she refused.

Bibi’s family was only one of two Christian households in the village, her husband Ashiq Masih told The Associated Press. But the other Christian family moved away after Bibi was arrested. Masih said he is concerned about his family’s safety in the village.

While blasphemy laws have regularly been abused in Pakistan to settle grudges against religious minorities, punishments usually range from imprisonment, fines, or beatings. Death sentences that have been issued for blasphemy have all been thrown out upon appeal. There have been no executions for blasphemy in Pakistan. Bibi’s case is unprecedented in that it marks the first time a woman was sentenced to hanging over a blasphemy accusation.

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