Asia Bibi’s Good Friday, “I forgive those who have hurt me”

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Asia Bibi’s Good Friday, “I forgive those who have hurt me”

By Paolo Affatato/ lastampa.it

The Christian woman unjustly condemned to death prays in prison with the rosary she received from the Pope. In Pakistan, Catholics live the liturgy of the Cross with special devotion.

“Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing”: it is with this invocation, she repeats continuously, that Asia Bibi, the Christian woman unjustly condemned to death for blasphemy and imprisoned in the female prison of Multan, is spending her Good Friday in preparation to live Easter in solitude. Joseph Nadeem, guardian of the woman’s family and owner of the “Renaissance Education Foundation” in Lahore, which guarantees an education to the daughters of Asia Bibi, told Vatican Insider that a sudden illness of her husband Ashiq has not allowed him to visit Bibi these days thus, the next meeting will take place after Easter.

“Last week we found her to be in a good physical and psychological condition,” Nadeem reports. Asia continuously recites the Rosary that was given to her, a gift of Pope Francis, and draws from prayer the consolation and strength to keep going: “Her spiritual attitude - the lawyer notes - today is focused on forgiveness: Christ has forgiven us, she keeps repeating herself. And she says: I too forgive those who have hurt me.

This is the Pakistani Christians’ spirit as they approach the celebration of Easter. A community repeatedly affected by suffering, victim of gratuitous violence, such as the terrorist attacks that in March 2015 devastated Youhanabad, the Christian quarter of Lahore. With Easter at the door, security measures in defense of Christian churches have been strengthened and today Youhanabad swarms with police.

But the memory of the murderous violence and the overall tension today do not discourage the faithful, who live Good Friday as the event of faith in which they identify most: “On the day of the Lord’s Passion - the Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Shaw, reveals to Vatican Insider - the faithful crowd the churches that are not big enough to contain them. The compound of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore fills up and there is a very great spiritual breath, an intense prayer. Catholics feel very close to the Lord and this closeness is a source of consolation”.

The bishop continues: “We tell them: Jesus Christ has forgiven. You are like Christ and ask Him for the strength to forgive. Jesus on the cross teaches us forgiveness. This is our Christian identity as Pakistani citizens. We invite the faithful to be peacemakers, like Christ. Christ’s grace and resurrection give us the strength to bear the suffering and evil received, without harboring feelings of hatred or vengeance, but to offer them following the example of the sacrificed Lamb who loves his persecutors. The Sacred Scripture say that “the discarded stone has become the cornerstone”. Thus, Christians in Pakistan, even if discriminated against or marginalized, are in the heart of Christ. They are her children and have priceless dignity. They are beloved disciples. This is the awareness that makes us move forward.

In Lahore, the faithful have well impressed in their memory the “Easter massacre”, the explosion in the Lahore Park that on 27 March 2016 killed 81 people. But fear will not prevent Christians from celebrating Easter with great devotion and with a massive presence. “Our churches will be full. The faith of the faithful is alive and solid: episodes of violence have the effect of strengthening it even more”, Shaw stresses again, convinced that Christians in Pakistan will continue to bear authentic evangelical witness in the country. “Let us not lose hope, let us know that the Lord is with us. The Catholic laity in Pakistan is growing rapidly, as are vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. We are a blessed Church”.

“We hope that Easter will be peaceful and harmonious”, the bishop hopes. And on the painful issues such as the respect for human rights and the blasphemy law “we remain optimistic because a consensus is coagulating, at various levels, also among Islamic religious leaders, which recognizes the urgency of reviewing the abuse of the blasphemy law: this is a good sign and we hope that politics will take on these demands”.

The bishop’s last thought today goes to the people who are suffering, such as Asia Bibi and the family of Sunil Saleem, a 26-year-old Christian who died on 26 March last because of the brutal beatings suffered by the security guards of a hospital in Lahore. Christian activist Nasir Saeed said of the episode: “Too many continue to do justice on their own and kill innocent people with impunity. When a dispute involves a Christian, Muslims feel entitled to intolerable violence knowing that they won’t be charged. That is not justice. It is sad to see that Pakistan, a country created with the support of religious minorities, has become a place where minorities live in constant danger of their lives. It is urgent to stop these atrocities”.

Sat, 03/31/2018 - 14:07
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