King's Evangelical Divinity School

21 October 2014

Asia Bibi and Just Another Petition. But What If…?

This  week  saw an  update on the plight of  Pakistani Christian mom of five Asia Bibi,  sentenced to hang for blasphemy against Islam. Her original sentence was upheld at appeal and her case has run its course.  There appear to be no further judicial avenues to pursue and  she remains in prison,  awaiting execution. This situation has dragged on for four years. 

When I visited No 10's e-petition site yesterday I was surprised to find none on behalf of Asia Bibi, so I posted one. I was duly informed it would take up to a week for approval (which was discouraging) but by late afternoon I received  an email to say it had been published.  Since then I've been writing to friends and colleagues asking them to sign and share.

It's a slow, slow business. The petition has been up 24 hours and has nearly 300 signatures at the time of writing. At one level it's great to see so many people take the time in the middle of a busy day or week to sign yet another petition. But at another level it seems a tiny drop in the ocean. Indeed, this afternoon a social media contact pointed out to me other petitions (which I didn't know about) on behalf of Asia Bibi, with many more signatures, that nonetheless so far appear to have achieved little. I must admit to having felt somewhat deflated.

Yet this petition is a little different. Rather than a general call for Asia Bibi's release, it seeks to put pressure on the UK government and British politicians to intervene, in turn putting pressure on the government of Pakistan to act. Seeking the release of someone residing outside the jurisdiction of your  local politician is one thing. But petitioning for your government and politicians to intervene and make a difference, so that they are in no doubt this is absolutely a major issue for many British voters, is quite another. Especially when a general election is looming… and one that looks like being the closest in years. Make no mistake, every British politicians is acutely aware how every vote counts in 2015.

I do not suggest for one moment  that politicians are solely motivated by votes (!). But with so many causes vying for our politicians' attention, logically it's the most popular that attract political support. Britain has long and considerable historical, political and economic relations with Pakistan, and thus british politicians could make a real difference.

There is an important precedent here. A few months the Sudanese Christian woman Miriam Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging for apostasy. While shackled in prison awaiting sentence she gave birth. But today she is free. How? Through immense political (and probably economic) pressure exerted by the UK (and other) government(s) and politicians upon Sudan because the issue had caught the attention of everyday folk, resulting in politicians sitting up and taking notice. I do not say politicians only intervened in Miriam's case for that reason, but I'm quite sure that had the issue not caught the public's imagination or press' attention, the outcome would have been rather different. 

Unfortunately time is running out for Asia Bibi and we need to encourage as many people as possible to get behind this issue more than ever (and make no mistake, many people have been campaigning for Asia Bibi long before this petition was posted). It really doesn't matter which petition you sign, provided it seeks to maximise effect by seeking a specific outcome, in this case pressuring UK politicians to act. So if you'd rather sign a different petition, please do so, and quickly, then post details of it here so others can do likewise. But please also sign this petition. So what if we all end up signing five petitions, or ten, or twenty? Only by pooling our voices and resources do we have any chance of helping a fellow human being who is in daily fear for her life simply because of her beliefs.

I suggest it's also important for Western, including British, Christians, to get fully behind this case and others because it sends a clear message to those who are disdainful of Christians in countries where such miscarriages of justice occur. Those who persecute Christians need to see that, contrary to their perceived stereotypes of rich, comfortable, Western Christians, that actually we do not sit idly by while believers in other lands are persecuted. Increasingly, they also need to see that when Christians speak in unison and pool their resources, UK politicians can take notice and increasingly see that how they respond has the potential to win (or lose) them votes, to the detriment of valuable political and economic relations with those countries (as Sudan learned).

Asia Bibi's case is no less horrific or unjust than Miriam's. So why can't the situation therefore be repeated? If we pool our voices, efforts and energy, and also pray, this or other campaigns on behalf of Asia Bibi need not be "just another petition". Crucially, Miriam's case caused uproar not only among British Christians but others across the UK who yearned for justice and demanded politicians act. And that is ultimately the aim: to mobilise politicians, because crucially they have the necessary leverage and tools at their disposal to make a difference. 

I know many British Christians have followed this case for years and, like me, many will have felt hopeless, discouraged, deflated. My hope and prayer is that the one person (or people) who can make a real difference and start the ball rolling, whether a politician, official, personality or some other person of influence, or whoever else God uses (influential or not), sits up and takes notice that lots and lots of British people, Christians and non-Christians, are getting agitated over a Christian mom who is, inexplicably languishing in a filthy jail, fearing daily for her life as she waits to be hanged, all because of her beliefs.

The petition has been trending in the top six on No 10's site all day. All it takes is one moment for the right person to see it and take action. Let's try and keep it up there in the public view as long as possible. Please add your signature, then encourage at least three other people to do likewise and share. Thanks.


22/10/14 I just learned of a major petition supporting Asia Bibi. It's not hosted at No 10 but absolutely the very first place to begin and sign (it's massive). Then also sign the petition through the link above, which focuses on political pressure via the No 10 website. All petitions are accumulative. Sign them all. Bless you.

27/10/14 Within a couple of hundred signatures of a thousand, at which stage we can approach a couple of local media outlets. Please consider helping with a final push to reach this milestone so we can move to the next stage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This link may be useful to those unfamiliar with the case.