November 22, 2014
A note from Fr. Milich - stand with persecuted Christians
A note from Fr. Milich:
Last Sunday I reminded you how traditionally Catholics have stood with the persecuted, those imprisoned for their faith, those condemned to die, their martyrs. I then asked three things of our community: 1) Daily prayer--even a short prayer, but something--for the persecuted Christians of the world. Secondly, contributions of material aid to these who are our own--one suggestion was Aid to the Church in Need (www.churchinneed.org), an organization attached to the Holy See, which tries to provide for the persecuted and endangered throughout the world, and 3 ) Political pressure especially for those cases where the violence against Catholics is tied to a nation, which can in fact be pressured. One of the most striking of those cases is that of Asia Bibi, who is condemned to die in Pakistan. You can write to Sen Diane Feinstein (who has in fact said that she finds the situation horrendously unjust) and Sen. Barbara Boxer, and your local Congressional representative (Sam Farr for most of our people but not all). Here is a story from, surprisingly enough, the New York Times, told largely by Asia Bibi's husband. The headline: Please Don't Abandon Me.
Note: Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman, was sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam in 2010. The year before, while picking fruit with Muslim women, she took a sip of water from the local well. She was immediately accused of making the water impure by the other workers, who told her that they could no longer use the well. According to her husband, Ashiq Masih, and others, men and women started beating her and accusing her of making derogatory remarks against the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies. Asia is currently in prison waiting to be hanged after losing an appeal on Oct. 16. She has told her story in a memoir, Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death over a Cup of Water, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
Below is an open letter by Ashiq addressed to the world community. (Madam Mayor refers to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has offered her support to Asia.)
Yesterday, I returned from the prison in Multan where my wife, Asia Bibi, was transferred eight months ago. Since Asia was sentenced to death in November 2010 for drinking a glass of water from our village well, my family has lived in constant fear and under death threats. I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Asia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.
After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the High Court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on the 16th of October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance. We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbors are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.
We are now trying our best to present the final case to the Supreme Court before the 4th of December. But we are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.
My five children and I have only survived thanks to the protection of a few faithful friends who risk their lives daily to help us. We are the husband and family of Asia Bibi and many people want us to die. Thanks to our friend Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who has become our sister and helped us for four years now, we speak often about what is happening in Paris and the world to help save Asia. Hearing that people are supporting Asia from so far away is so important for us. It helps us to hold on. Every time I visit Asia in prison I tell her the news. Sometimes it gives her the courage to keep going.
Just before taking the ten-hour journey to visit Asia, I learned the wonderful news that Paris is offering to welcome Asia and our family to Paris if she is freed. This is a huge honor and we are very humbled. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to you, Madam Mayor of Paris, and to say that we are immensely grateful for your concern. I hope that one day we will visit you alive, and not dead.
When I visited Asia Bibi yesterday she asked me to give you this message:
“My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me. When my husband showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed. Ashiq told me that the city of Paris is offering to welcome our family. I send my deepest thanks to you Madam Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world. You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me. I did not commit blasphemy.”
Pakistan, 17th of November 2014