“The Pope is the cheerleader of all God’s Christians, so we are here to ask his intervention, and particularly, his prayer, for the Christians of Pakistan and our family.” In an interview with ZENIT, following a press conference Tuesday at the Italian Parliament in Rome, Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, made this statement.
Also taking part in the April 14 conference were Asia Bibi’s daughter, Eisham Ashiq, and attorney Joseph Nadeem, who have been in Italy these days to request the international community to intervene so the Christian woman can be liberated.
The conference was held in the press room of Palazzo Montecitorio, and was initiated by Italian Senator Mario Mauro and Italian Secretary of State for Defense, Domenico Rossi, together with the Association Pakistani Christians in Italy and the association CitizenGO.
Asia Noreen Bibi was a Pakistani Christian mother of five children. In 2009, she was arrested on charges of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. In 2010, she was sentenced to death. She has credited her survival over the course of four years in prison to her and all other Church members’ prayers.
When her husband and daughter meet the Holy Father at the weekly Wednesday General Audience, Bibi asked them to kiss his hand and ask for a blessing.
Regarding the importance of this encounter with the Pope for the family, Asia’s husband noted: “The Pope is the cheerleader of all God’s Christians, so we are here to ask his intervention, and particularly, his prayer, for the Christians of Pakistan and our family.”
Responding to if the Pope’s voice is heard by the people of Pakistan, Ashiq told journalists, “For sure, the Pope’s voice is heard in Pakistan and is highly respected.”
Asked about his wife’s physical and psychological condition, he said, “She is very strong in her faith. She is doing ok, in terms of her psychological and mental health.
When a reporter asked him, “What is your hope now?” He responded, “Our hope is God and our faith.”
Turning to his and his daughter’s long, tiring journey to Europe and why it was worth it for them to visit, he said, “Europe can do much, and is committed and is encouraging greater visibility of Asia Bibi.”
More than just reflecting on his family’s ordeal, he spoke about the situation of Christians in Pakistan.
“The situation of Christians in Pakistan is of persecution,” he said, noting, “Just last Friday, a young Christian boy was burned alive.”
“Our appeal is for the freedom of Asia Bibi,” he told ZENIT.
He also reiterated that they only came to Rome with one child, but left the others in Pakistan, just because they wanted to appeal to the international community to free Asia Bibi.
“We are expecting Europe will put pressure on the Pakistani government,” Ashiq said, noting, “It is an opportunity to [obtain] the freedom of Asia Bibi.”
The case is in the Supreme Court, which is close to the last chance, which would be a presidential pardon.
However, a Presidential pardon could happen if there is pressure from both the Italian government, and the rest of the international community.
When asked if he could remain positive given the reality, he said: “We are positive. We are struggling a lot along with the international community to get Asia Bibi freedom.”
Speaking to ZENIT on the Church’s involvement, their lawyer, Joseph Nadeem, stressed that the more the Church is involved, the more likely it is that Asia Bibi will be freed.