New York, April 30, 2016.

IRFT Executive Director, Fr Joseph Varghese met the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi of Pakistan today at the UN who came to attend the Congress on “Defending Religious Freedom” at the United Nations. Father Varghese send a request to Secretary General Mr. Banki Moon to pressure the Pakistani government to release Asia Bibi from the prison. A Christian woman, Asia Bibi, continues to sit on death row awaiting an appeal to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not she should be hung for allegedly committing blasphemy in Pakistan. It has been 6 years since Bibi was accused by Muslim co-workers of committing blasphemy after an altercation stated when the Muslims took exception to Bibi drinking from the same. According to the family and associates the conditions Bibi has lived in since being convicted of blasphemy in 2010 have been terrible. The network went as far to say that Bibi was living in a “hell.
Under Pakistani law, blasphemous acts include making derogatory remarks against the Muslim prophet Muhammed and defiling the Koran. Allegations of blasphemy are often fabricated and are commonly used to intimidate religious minorities or settle personal vendettas, including against fellow Muslims. Moreover, blasphemy charges do not require proof of intent or evidence, and there are no penalties for false allegations. Since the laws do not provide details on what constitutes a violation, accusers have broad leeway to define what they deem an offense. In 2013, 38 individuals were imprisoned in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court took an encouraging step forward last week when it decided to reconsider blasphemy charges against Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who is facing a death sentence. This decision provides an opportunity for Pakistan to acquit Bibi and show the world its commitment to protecting its religious minorities. The U.S. must prioritize the issue of religious freedom in its dialogue with Pakistan to discourage any further persecution of religious minorities and to undercut support for Islamist extremist ideologies that leads to targeted violence against these vulnerable communities.