asia bibi

Bibi’s crime and subsequent acquittal

The coverage of Asia Bibi’s recent trial, acquittal and release has been fairly comprehensive - but since her release the trail has gone quiet. Where is she and in what circumstances?

Asia Bibi is a Christian mother of five children, from very poor circumstances. She was working in a field with other local women when a dispute arose because she was accused of drinking from the same vessel as the other (Muslim) women. This dispute led to an accusation that she had insulted Mohammed.

In Islam a non-believer is not permitted to touch or share a drinking vessel with Muslims as Islam teaches that they are unclean. This law led to the angry scene in the field which resulted in her arrest and imprisonment for over eight years.  

Her imprisonment was in solitary confinement and she prepared her own food because of the constant threat of poisoning.

Recently the Pakistani Supreme Court acquitted Asia owing to a lack of substantial evidence to support the accusation of blasphemy against Mohammed. There was the expected outrage which led to the conditions that she is not allowed to leave the country and further legal action against her may yet occur. Because of the threats to her life, she was not released but moved to an undisclosed prison destination for her own protection. 

Out of prison but not yet free 

Then one night it is alleged that a vehicle came to the prison and whether it was connected to her release or not cannot be substantiated but when daylight came, Bibi was no longer in the prison. Her location now is unknown and remarkably she has remained undiscovered.

To Australians who enjoy the great freedoms of faith, association and expression, the case of Asia Bibi is almost beyond comprehension.

Western nations that enjoy Christian foundations are keen to uphold the rule of law and we take seriously such articles as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

That Declaration includes the right of freedom of religion: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” (Article 18).

While Pakistan was one of the first signatories to the Declaration, it is no simple matter to incorporate the values of the Declaration into the culture of Islamic nations. To conservative Muslims, Islamic Law (Shariah) is above all other jurisprudence. It is above the law of the land and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Shariah is not just a religious or moral influence. It is a legislative reality that regulates daily life and practice well beyond rituals such praying and washing. It specifically regulates relationships between Muslims and non-believers with a very strong assumption about the supremacy of Islam.

When Muslims are in the social minority as they are in Australia, there is an acknowledgement of the laws of the land and general adherence. But for the traditionalists, the Islamic ideal is always in mind - that society will change when Islam gains the ascendancy. 

As for the plight of Asia Bibi and her family, the fact that she has not been discovered and lynched is a very good sign. But Asia and her family need more.  We might wish that the Pakistani government would securely deliver Asia Bibi and her family to safety in a Western nation but this story is not likely to follow the Western path.  

Calls for Asylum

Several Western governments are under pressure to offer asylum to Asia Bibi and are weighing the political and social implications of intervening. What will be the reaction of local Muslims in such a host country? How will authorities keep the family safe? Can the Christian church be relied upon to provide social support without showcasing Asia Bibi? Will militant Islamists react with violence and murder? What would happen to relations with other Muslim majority nations who provide oil, buy technology and provide employment to the West?    

Meanwhile, Asia Bibi and her family are from among the very poor. They are virtually illiterate and have no language apart from their mother tongue. If their freedom and safety is to be accomplished it would be better for it to happen in a way that causes as little disruption and loss of face as possible. 

Call for prayer and discreet diplomacy

While there is a place for political pressure, let us not neglect the value of discreet approaches and above all Christian prayer. And as we pray, remember that the freedoms we enjoy are very fragile and require careful protection.

Although Australia endorses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have pledged ourselves to defend freedom, we are seeing legislation emerge that will undermine our commitment to freedom of religion.

Christian prayer is an often misunderstood practice. The assumption of some is that it is like a spiritual generator that increases ‘spiritual mass’ in a given situation. So it follows that the more we pray the greater the mass, the greater the result.  I suggest that prayer is the personal engagement of a Christian with God through Christ. In prayer, God is very much the Senior Partner. We do not come to demand or even persuade. We come to listen and learn his position on any given matter, and then to align ourselves with Him in faith.

The term ‘vigil’ reminds us that prayer is waiting and watching for God’s leading in a given situation such as Asia and her family. Some think prayer is like writing an email, pressing ‘send’ and assuming the matter is now resolved. It may be but prayer is about changing the one who prays as well as the pressing need. In this case, Bibi’s need is making us mindful that religious freedom is a great treasure and an inalienable human right for all, not just ‘for us’.  Perhaps we have been too casual about it, too thankless and too irreverent. 

It may not be your habit or tradition, but I’m suggesting you light a vigil candle (or set up a little tea candle) in the window of your home, your church, on your desk at work or in some place to remind you to pray and where others may see it. Place her name there and make space in your life to remember her and her family until we know that they are safe – whether in the arms of loving friends… or in the arms of Jesus which is far safer.  

Here are some prayers to reflect upon in this vigil:

  • Our Father, we ask you to intervene for Asia Bibi and her family. Grant them safety and security so they may live peaceful and productive lives.
  • God of the Nations, we pray for influence to come upon the nation of Pakistan that they would take seriously their human rights obligations.
  • Father, we acknowledge we have not always valued the freedom and equality of all citizens as we ought.  As our own nation becomes increasingly complex socially we ask you to teach us all to manage our differences respectfully and successfully.  
  • We give thanks for our freedoms and recognise they come in large part from the Christian heritage of previous generations. Help us to serve you and our nation well so that those who succeed us will benefit from our faithfulness to Christ and from how we lived and communicated his good will for our society.

Roger Cook

FamilyVoice Australia is deeply disappointed that WA Health Minister Roger Cook announced a euthansia bill and pro-euthanasia expert panel.

The panel's so-called “community consultation” will rely on incomplete and flawed research as the Sanderson End of Life Choices report which fails to mention data on overseas experiences such as in Oregon, USA.

"A government that sends an inherently conflicting message that doctors can both kill and care for vulnerable dying patients is fundamentally not to be trusted," said WA State Director Darryl Budge.

"Mr Cook fails to realise that doctors will not have a legal obligation to follow through with high quality palliative care.

"Furthermore, doctors themselves will most likely choose the path of least cost and encourage patients towards assisted killing.

"WA already has an above average suicide rate, recording 15.8 suicides per 100,000 people, compared with 12.6 nationally, in ABS figures released in September.

"Data from Oregon shows the suicide rate has climbed steadily since euthanasia was legalized in 1997 and in 2016 was 5% higher than the national average."

For all media enquiries, please contact Darryl Budge on 0468 454 507


By Darryl Budge

A new study on a 12,000-person dataset by the Institute for Family Studies has found that the happiest married people are faithful to one partner.

This is the first study to examine whether sexual history impacted the quality of marriages. Other studies have found that those who marry as virgins have the lowest divorce rates.

The study found that 71% of men and 64% of women with one lifetime sexual partner were “very happy” in their marriages. This slid below 65% of men and 60% of women who had 2 or more lifetime sexual partners.

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The results of the study show a dramatic decline in marital happiness for those with two or more lifetime sexual partners.

Why should we be surprised by this? Detaching sex from marriage, and committed lifelong love from sex, has been hurting people for thousands of years. Eventually we must confront reality – something which no study or philosophy can reverse.

Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt (who is not a Christian) has observed in his book The Happiness Hypothesis, “True love exists, I believe, but it is not—cannot be—passion that lasts forever. True love, the love that undergirds strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with some added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to each other.”

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This graph of the U.S. General Social Study dataset shows the number of people with one sexual partner has declined dramatically over the last 100 years.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that "love is not self-seeking... it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

God's Word also warns in Proverbs 6:32 that immorality is self-destructive: "He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself."

"Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body," says 1 Corinthians 6:18.

There is no running from reality.

project rockit

FamilyVoice Australia is concerned that 600 schools across the nation are receiving anti-bullying training from the Project Rockit organisation that (according to The Australian, 24/10/18) is a group that has an “active role in sexuality and gender politics”.

The group runs workshops in primary and secondary schools to tackle bullying online and in schools. Founded by Melbourne sisters Lucy and Rosie Thomas 12 years ago, the organisation has influenced more than 200,000 students.

“Schools considering this program should firstly obtain the permission of parents, since classrooms exist to serve mums and dads in their natural role to train and educate children,” said FamilyVoice National Secretary David d'Lima.

“Parents should be concerned that their children are being exposed to programs whose leaders hold behaviours and philosophies contrary to what parents may want for their children.”

children walking copy

Perhaps the answer is that Western civilisation was emerging from a time when children were still regarded as chattel – to be seen and not heard, not to be spoilt or doted upon because some childhood disease might snatch them away and leave us with an unliveable grief. 

Whatever the reason, the National Apology holds us to account - children must be loved and protected. Sorry is not enough, nor is an institutional response if it does not spring from a new national appreciation of the preciousness of every child no matter how young, how foreign, how unwanted, how naughty or nice, whether born or unborn. This moment must not be lost to politics or ideology. We must seize it while our hearts are illuminated with humility. 

The Prime Minister repeated the comment that this apology was being made in humility.  At this time it is as if the crimes committed are beyond forgiveness. These crimes must be paid for. The children must be compensated. The perpetrators must be punished.  These were crimes against humanity – powerful adults preying upon powerless children. This was predatory. This was merciless. This was totally indefensible. Inhuman.  

This is a moment for institutions to strengthen their codes of conduct, to reduce the opportunity for abuse and to compensate victims.  As we implement the National Redress Scheme we will reflect upon the value of every child, or anyone else who is unable to defend themselves.  We will weigh up the cost to society of turning a blind eye or a deaf ear. We will search for the moral strength, for the social commitment to ensure it never happens again. If we will allow it, this can be a moral watershed for the nation.

When the grieving time has lessened sufficiently for other conversations, we may ask if there are any other situations remotely like this?  Are we collectively allowing anything else that we will profoundly regret in days to come? Are we dehumanising someone else and in the process dehumanising ourselves? In this moment of illumination, other memories may be standing in the shadows of our minds, some personal, and some collective. 

And how much better our private lives and public conversation would be if the silent witnesses were not there?  And they can be sent away but not without a name, the light of truth, personal humility and willingness to make our peace with God and Man and to fix what can be fixed. Dare we use this moment in time to make peace with someone, especially someone in our own families that we may have offended? 

Imagine a gentle flood of reconciliation moving across our land, bringing grace and forgiveness to families and communities as a heartfelt response to the suffering of so many children in our institutions. Their suffering would not be in vain.   

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