Pope Urges Release of Pakistani Sentenced to Hang

45-Year-Old Christian Mother of 5 Accused of Blaspheming Mohammed

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI added his voice to that of the international community beseeching the release of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman condemned to death for blasphemy.



Bibi, 45, was charged a year ago for blaspheming Mohammed in a conflict with fellow farm workers. She was sentenced to death last week.

The Pope today at the end of the general audience mentioned the plight of Pakistani Christians, who along with Hindus make up only a 5% minority in the Muslim country. Human rights groups have long decried the nation's blasphemy laws as a means of persecution of religious minorities in cases that have nothing to do with religion.

"In these days, the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, who are often victims of violence and discrimination," the Holy Father said.

Then he mentioned Bibi specifically: "Today I particularly express my spiritual closeness to Mrs. Asia Bibi and her family, asking that she be given full liberty as soon as possible. As well, I pray for those who find themselves in similar situations, so that their human dignity and fundamental rights be fully respected."

An international campaign is collecting signatures appealing to the Pakistan government on Bibi's behalf.

On Monday, an appeal was filed in her case, while her husband requested prayer from Christians across the globe.