Christian Asia Bibi arrived in Canada Thursday safe from Pakistan’s ridiculous blasphemy laws and specious accusations that are a routine part of anti-Christian persecution there.
To Citizen Go team leader Caroline Craddock, it’s simply a time to celebrate an international effort of hundreds who successfully brought a sister in Christ home at last.
“I feel overwhelming joy to share this news,” Craddock said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. “We have managed to save an innocent woman from a death sentence, a sentence she received because of her faith.”
Caroline Craddock with Citizen Go
Many Christians are still unjustly imprisoned, and our work is not done
The Citizen Go efforts span most of a decade, but at last Asia Bibi can embrace her husband and daughters, truly free.
Craddock said that the campaigns to shine the light of global attention to Bibi’s case activated public opinion and stirred media reports as well, which prompted responses by authorities of Western governments.
“Our collective strength overcame the Islamist radicals who called for Asia Bibi’s execution, and encouraged Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to resist the pressure from terrorists on the streets of Islamabad,” Craddock said.
Petitions, demonstrations, rallies and prayer vigils have been a part of the efforts for Bibi’s release and safe keeping, and it involved hundreds of thousands.
The attention prompted international organizations to join the cause as well.
In 2015, Bibi’s daughter Eisham shared her testimony at the First Congress of Persecuted Christians in Madrid.
Citizen Go efforts were back at the second Congress of Persecuted Christians in 2016, and Eisham also spoke to United Nations officials in New York also that year.
“We managed to bring Asia Bibi’s family before Pope Francis in the Vatican,” Craddock added. “This was a great consolation for all of them in moments of sadness.”
These efforts for attention and response were in addition to the ongoing legal defense over the course of a hotly contested legal criminal trial process.
“On October 31, 2018, the Pakistani Supreme Court overturned Asia Bibi’s death sentence and acquitted her of all charges, ordering her immediate release,” Craddock said.
“But the Supreme Court’s verdict inflamed fanatics who were bent on killing Asia Bibi. Protests organized by the extreme political and religious TLP party spread all over the country. Asia Bibi’s life, despite her acquittal, was still hanging by a thread.”
Caroline Craddock with Citizen Go
This victory encourages us to continue working for religious freedom for all Christians who are persecuted around the world
The months since her acquittal were also tense, through an additional acquittal appeal process – yes, there was an appeal allowed of her acquittal, and finally the upholding decision of her official release.
Then there was a process to secure a safe exit from Pakistan avoiding roaming gangs and rallies of Islamic militants bent on finding her and killing her.
“All that was left was to get her out of the country, but even this has not been easy,” Craddock said.
They considered numerous options for asylum and followed careful strategies for leaving Pakistan.
“The Canadian option has prevailed, and we are incredibly happy that it has,” Craddock exclaimed. “In Canada, there is a well-established Pakistani-Christian community. No doubt, Asia Bibi will feel welcome there.”
Craddock described the release as, “the liberation of Asia Bibi,” that, “has been a worldwide team effort.”
It is set against a backdrop of global persecution against Christians that reports this week indicated is prevalent to the extreme of comprising fully 80-percent of religious persecution that takes place globally.
“This victory encourages us to continue working for religious freedom for all Christians who are persecuted around the world,” Craddock said.
“Many Christians are still unjustly imprisoned, and our work is not done.”