CHARLOTTE, NC: In June 2009 a Christian Pakistani farm laborer Asia Biba was accused of blasphemy. This was after an argument with co-workers while harvesting berries. Bibi was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. The 47-year-old mother of five is the first woman in Pakistan history to be handed the death penalty for blasphemy. Had the sentence been carried out, she would have been the first person executed under current Pakistani law.
Asia Bibi,a farm worker was convicted of making derogatory remarks about Islam. Neighbors working in the fields with her were upset after Bibi drank from their glass. Asia Bibi is a Pakistan Christian. Her accusers are Muslim.
A Pakistani court acquits Asia Biba due to insufficient evidence.
After spending eight years in prison, last October Asia Biba was released from her prison. The ruling, though praised by human rights organizations and advocates who support Christian minorities, was violently protested by Islamic parties in major cities throughout Pakistan.
“On merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in court. The judge saying the petitioners, led by a village prayer leader, had failed to point out any mistake in the original judgment.
For several days demonstrations by enraged Islamist parties brought some Pakistani cities to a halt with demands for the execution to be carried out.
As a “compromise”, the government signed an agreement in early November with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Party (TLP), the group responsible for leading the protests, barring Bibi from leaving the country.
During Asia Biba’s eight years of confinement, at least two of her most loyal advocates were assassinated for their stances opposing blasphemy laws.
Meanwhile, Asia Biba’s family went into hiding after receiving death threats.
The Vatican got involved when Pope Francis, along with other influential world leaders, sought Bibi’s release.
However, the pope has turned a blind eye to Islam’s blasphemy laws. Laws that put ever Christian at risk of arrest and execution.
Issuing a statement, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin spoke on the Pope’s behalf:
“It’s an internal matter of Pakistan, I hope it can be resolved in the best way…I do not know how it will end, there have been many reactions…The question is not simple, it is very complex and delicate. Always we hope that it ends in the best way.”
No doubt the situation is “complex and delicate.” Most international debates are. Particularly when dealing with Islamic nations. Never is there any clear-cut black and white solution to any dispute.
The Pope’s human rights yardstick
With that as a given, the pope has consistently made a case critical of heads of state and other world leaders who he believes do not go far enough in aiding the poor or migrants seeking asylum from war or natural disasters. But has the Pope gone far enough to protect Christians from Islamic hate?
On the surface, the pope’s mantra is admirable. Compassion and caring for all people of all faiths should follow the teachings he endorses. On the other hand, reality does not always concur with theoretical ideals.
Words can easily be empty or misinterpreted if not followed by actions that supplement them.
There is no doubt the pontiff is caught somewhere in the middle between what he believes and what is right. Which can often be seen as hypocrisy by those who do not have to deal with the problem directly?
Thus to turn his back on Asia Bibi is hardly an endorsement of the compassion the pope preaches.
Taking a stance of not interfering with the rulings of the Pakistani government is nothing more than a cop-out. In a sense, it’s the easy way out because it requires no effort to “pass the buck” much in the same manner as Pontius Pilate attempted to do two thousand years ago.
One has to wonder if the pope has ever bothered to read and understand the violence scattered throughout the pages of the Koran. If he has, how can he justify his position that Islam is a religion of peace to be embraced by the other great faiths of the world?
The paradox simply makes no sense.
Does the Pope believe that Islam will give Catholics the same courtesy Catholicism gives them?
Could it be a tactic on the part of Pope Francis to attempt to “make nice” with Islamic leaders in order to “protect” his own global flock?
Such a strategy might make sense if the pope was dealing with rational tenets of belief, but 14 centuries of conflict dominated primarily by followers of one religion demonstrate that such dispositions do not work.
Negotiations and talks are almost always the best way to approach diplomacy. However, there is still a need to anticipate negative actions and responses. Moreover, to be prepared to deal with them.
Purposely refusing to deal with a problem is like refusing to go the hospital when you think you have cancer.
The idea being if you ignore it, then it doesn’t exist or it will go away. Only it doesn’t. It just gets worse.
Pope Francis may be following his heart based upon biblical teachings, but he is also naive to ignore the fact that evil does exist in this complex world in which we live.
Failing to recognize the threat is not the answer.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is anaward-winningg television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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