Christian Group Tries to Draw Int'l Attention to Persecuted Pakistani

An advocacy organization for persecuted Christians is petitioning the United Nations to take notice of a Pakistani woman sentenced to death for proclaiming her faith, and other religious persecutions.

Christian Freedom International formed an online petition this week calling on U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice to shine the international spotlight on Asia Bibi.

"We believe that it is imperative that the United Nations exerts pressure on the Pakistani government to steadfastly enforce law protecting the humanitarian rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation," CFI President Jim Jacobson said in a statement.

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Bibi, a wife and mother of two, was beaten, arrested for blasphemy and sentenced to death after standing for her Christian beliefs. The sentence was handed down on Sunday. She is the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

CFI Program Director Benjamin Duff says the petition is the first step in CFI's efforts to help Bibi. Its hope is that the attention will prompt nations to offer Bibi and her family asylum.

However, Duff told The Christian Post that he is "very doubtful that the Pakistani government would let this woman take asylum [in another country]."

Still, CFI hopes that the petition will call attention to the religious persecution Duff says is commonplace in Pakistan.

CFI has been active in Pakistan for six years, providing care packages for the country's impoverished labor workforce and supporting house churches.

In that time, it has heard many horrific stories of harassment. Bibi's situation is a small picture of daily persecution Christians face in the Muslim majority nation. Duff says that Christian oppression is the norm in the Pakistani city of Lahora.

"[Christians] in the Lahora can't go outside. They can't practice [their faith]. They have to whisper in their houses," related Duff.

Christians, he said, are frequently beaten and spit upon. And Christian women are often abducted, raped and forced to convert to Islam.

Despite the ongoing persecution of Christians, Duff noted that it is very rarely covered in the American media. He also lamented that the Obama administration has not taken a hard line stance against religious persecution. He cited the administration's handling of Christian killings in Baghdad as an example.

On Nov. 1, the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs released a statement saying, "The United States strongly condemns this senseless act of hostage taking and violence by terrorists linked to al Qaeda in Iraq that occurred Sunday in Baghdad killing so many innocent Iraqis. Our hearts go out to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much from these attacks. We offer sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and to all the people of Iraq who are targeted by these cowardly acts of terrorism. We know the overwhelming majority of Iraqis from all its communities reject violence and we stand with them as we work together to combat terrorism and protect the people of our two nations."

Duff pointed out, "Their statement didn't state one fact that the people [killed] were Christians and that's the reason that they were targeted."

CFI hopes to pressure the administration to take action for Bibi. "It would take people to sending emails and calling their senators to put pressure on the White House and the United Nations," he stated.

Bibi was sent to prison in June 2009, after a confrontation with several Muslim co-workers who had been relentlessly pressuring her to convert to Islam. Bibi countered the women's arguments by explaining how Jesus had died on the cross and asking what Mohammed had done for them. She was then beaten by the women and taken into police custody on blasphemy charges. Bibi is being sentenced to death by hanging.

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