Asia Bibi Seen at Risk of Mental Illness

Foundation Director Reports on Pakistani Christian Accused of Blasphemy

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LAHORE, Pakistan, DEC. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The director of the organization defending Asia Bibi says the Christian woman accused of blaspheming Mohammed needs medical care to ward off mental illness.

The Fides news agency reported the update given by Haroon Barkat Masih, international director of the Masihi Foundation, which seeks to protect the rights of Christians in Pakistan and is overseeing Bibi's legal and material assistance.

An international delegation from the Masihi Foundation met Bibi on Monday in the district prison in Sheikpura, where she has been for more than a year. They wanted to determine her condition, bring a word of hope and good wishes for Christmas, while the appeal process is still pending before the Lahore High Court.

A statement released by the foundation after visiting the prison reported that "because of her solitary confinement, Asia Bibi, 46, appears considerably older, has a pale complexion, she looks very frail, even unable to stand on her own."

"During the time spent with her, her eyes were not fixed at any one place at any time, she could not understand what was happening, she was completely confused and looked astonished," the statement continued. "During the whole conversation -- over 2 hours and 20 minutes -- her trail of thoughts were drifting."

"She reacted in mixed emotions, laughing, crying and going silent for long periods of time," the report added.

The visitors said Bibi was afraid to accept the water they offered her to drink, and that she had not been allowed to bathe for more than two months.

Nevertheless, Bibi told them she has forgiven those who accused her of blasphemy and only wants to return to her family.

The woman asked the Christians of the world "to continue to pray for her."

Haroon Barkat Masih echoed Bibi's own question of when she will be released. 

"If Asia remains in isolation she is likely to risk mental illness that could seriously compromise her psychological equilibrium," the director said. "We ask authorities to immediately allow a team of doctors to visit her and give her treatment. [...]

"Recently, Pope Benedict XVI visited the prisoners in an Italian prison: We believe that, through his gesture, we have symbolically included all the prisoners in the world and even Asia Bibi, who will spend a sad Christmas, in solitude in a cell. We call on all Christians around the world to remember Asia Bibi to the Lord, on Christmas Eve, and to raise a prayer for her."

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