It wasn’t too far in our country’s past that we had separate drinking fountains for black people and white people. It was a disgraceful part of United States history that has been left behind. The same cannot be said for Pakistan, where Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for using the same drinking cup as the Muslim women in her community in 2009.
Asia and her husband Ashiq were the only Christians in their village, the rest of the residents being Muslim. However, they were respectful of the dominant religion, and had always lived peaceably with their neighbors. Then came the day that Asia was picking falsa berries with a group of women, and one woman objected to her having used the common water cup for a drink. All hell broke loose at that point, and Asia soon found herself in prison on trumped-up charges of blasphemy against Muhammad. Her captors said that if she gave up her allegiance to Jesus and converted to Islam, her life would be spared. She refused to renounce Jesus Christ.
In 2010 Asia was sentenced to be hanged for her crime, despite protesting her innocence. Her family had to go into hiding, for when one person is charged with blasphemy, the entire family is considered guilty. People all over the world protested her arrest, diplomats tried to negotiate her release, and the Pope begged the Pakistani government to release her. It has been eight years, and Asia still sits on death row, her life in limbo. Several people who have attempted to help her have been assassinated.
An international reporter affiliated with France 24, Anne-Isabelle Tollet, was moved to write a book about Asia’s imprisonment. It was a difficult task, as Asia could not read or write, and only the lawyer and husband were allowed to visit. So the lawyer would read questions to Asia, she would verbally answer, then the lawyer would convey them to Anne-Isabelle, who wrote them down. The book was finished and published in 2011, then re-published in 2012 and 2013.
It is simply appalling to think that in this day and age, people can be executed simply for the beliefs of their heart. Asia was not hurting anyone, nor was her family. Yet she will, in all likelihood, die of malnutrition or illness in prison. Would most Americans be willing to hold to their religious beliefs if faced with the hangman’s noose? I think not.