Back in March and again in June I posted some commentary and links to articles on this saintly and silent martyr in-the-making. After reading this update you can reference three previous posts about Asia on our website here.
After three years, poor Asia Bibi still survives on death row in the squalor of a filthy windowless cell, innocent victim of Pakistan’s diabolical “blasphemy” law. Her husband (who is allowed to visit her from time to time), and five children have to keep on the move on account of the many death threats the family has received. If international pressure does manage to secure the release of Asia, she will need to have constant protection even out of her country, or somehow disappear into anonymity, on account of Islamic extremists who are determined to kill her. One imam in Peshawar has offered 5000 euros to the one who does the job.
These jihadists mean business. They have murdered two of her defenders already, one of whom, Salman Taseer, was the Muslim governor of Punjab province. He was assassinated in January 2011. The other was Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42-year-old minister for minority affairs, a Catholic, the only one in Pakistan’s government. He had received many death threats and affirmed with fortitude that he was ready to die for Christ. And he did — gunned down in his car two months after Taseer.
French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollett notes in the recently finished Memoir, which she co-authored with the valiant prisoner, that Asia Bibi “prays all day long.” The title of the book is Get Me Out of Here! The material for the book includes letters written by Asia from prison and answers to questions posed to her by Tollett through Asia’s husband Ashiq. It will be available in English sometime this fall. The author, who has brought Asia’s case before the UN Human Rights Council, will be in New York for the book’s American debut. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support Asia Bibi’s family and the legal cause for her release.
Here is a clip from one of her letters to her family: “We are Christians and poor, but our family is a light… I still don’t know when they will hang me, but be at peace, my loves, I shall go with my head held high, without fear, because I will be in the company of Our Lord and the Virgin Mary, who will welcome me into their arms.” This complete letter can be read here where CNA posts the latest information on the book.
I should say “must be read” rather than “can be read.” This loving mother and wife writes as she lives, and that life is the life of a saint and probable martyr. Shahbaz Bhatti is most certainly a martyr. If God takes Asia Bibi to eternity, how glorious it would be for the Church militant to see her and Shabbaz canonized.
I could make a list of others who died as martyrs for the Faith under Communism. Instead of pushing the causes of well-known shepherds and preachers, which is fine, why not move forward the causes of those who suffered and died for Christ in slave labor camps under the Communists? Three cardinals come to mind immediately: Ignatius Kung, Joseph Mindszenty, and Joseph Slipji. And so many priests and bishops as well. I am delighted that Father Walter Cizsek, S.J.’s cause has been approved. Father Beda Chang, another Jesuit and a martyr, would be an excellent candidate. So would Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll and even more so, Bishop Francis Ford, that society’s first martyr, who was so beaten-up from two years of torture that, as another prisoner testified, he looked “like a sack of potatoes.” My list could go on and on; the point is that there is great need in these times of Catholic crisis for the canonizations of modern martyrs, or at least the dry martyrs, who had suffered for the Faith for so many years in prisons and labor camps.
The Catholic Register and CNA have been following Asia Bibi’s plight. A new article posted today in TCR brings readers up to date and includes an interview with Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan.
LAHORE, Pakistan — Amid the growing international campaign demanding release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced by a trial court to death for blasphemy, a Church official in Pakistan says the local Church would prefer to maintain a solemn, prayerful vigil. Read full report here.