Monday, August 08, 2011

PAKISTAN – Health concerns for two Christians detained for 'blasphemy'

Release partners in Pakistan say they are concerned for the health and well-being of two Christian women detained for 'blasphemy' in Punjab.

Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) reports that one of the two, Agnus Bibi, is in such poor health due to a lung condition that she has been transferred to Faisalabad Civil Hospital.

Lack of medical care at Faisalabad District Jail where she has been awaiting trial for alleged blasphemy for six months meant that her health had deteriorated quickly. She has also reportedly suffered ill-treatment from Muslim prison staff – claims that the prison denies. 'Her failing health caused her great mental stress and depression,' reports SLMP, whose staff visited her in hospital recently.

Two guards have been assigned to her in hospital. Even so, SLMP says it is concerned for her safety, given that Christians accused of blasphemy are often the target of Islamist extremists, even before a conviction. Christian brothers Sajid and Rashid Emmanuel were shot dead outside the Faisalabad courthouse where they were on trial for blasphemy in July 2010 (Prayer Alert, July 20, 2010).

Meanwhile, Ruqiya Bibi from Kasur district, who is serving a life sentence for 'blasphemy' in Sahiwal Central Jail, is said to be in poor health because of an insect bite on her foot for which she has not received any medical treatment.

SLMP recently made it possible for Ruqiya's family to visit her in jail – after a long separation. An SLMP staff member described as 'heart-rending' the scene of Ruqiya being reunited with her husband and children. They could see one another but could not touch because they were separated by iron bars and a fence.

'She called her son and girl near the fence and kissed the fence like she kissed the kids,' the SLMP staff member reported. 'She was shedding tears continuously which showed her great pain and sorrow. Even the visitors of other prisoners got emotional seeing her.'

Ruqiya has been detained for the past three years and is currently being kept in solitary confinement, after threats from other prisoners. She has been promised safety in return for converting to Islam – but has refused and remained strong in her faith. SLMP reports that she and her husband, Munir, were both given life sentences but Munir was later released.

SLMP has been supporting both women and their families, providing financial and spiritual support. Neither family could otherwise afford to visit their loved ones in jail.

(Source: Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan)

• Ask God to protect and encourage Agnus, Ruqiya and their families. Pray that they will know God's goodness, His healing, His provision and His peace. Pray that both women will be released immediately.
• Ask God to sustain and protect everyone involved in the work of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan. Thank God for their powerful, life-transforming ministry which brings hope in desperate situations.



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