By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
In a story, Spero News editor Martin Barillas, stated that the letter said, "I ask you to think of her as a sister, a daughter of Abraham, our common father in faith."
"Cardinal Etchegaray wields significant influence in dialogue between the Catholic Church and worldwide Islam," said Barillas.
"Ever since Pope John Paul II commissioned a Vatican council on inter-religious dialogue in 1986, along with the organization of a world inter-religious prayer meeting in Italy, the 90 year-old Cardinal Etchegaray has sought to find the means for Christian/Muslim coexistence.
|Cardinal Archbishop Roger Etchegaray|
"Even an appeal from Pope Benedict XVI has been for naught. A year ago, more than 500,000 people from 100 countries signed a petition to the government of Pakistan to pardon the Christian woman who has been sentenced to death."
Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law is enshrined in the Criminal Code of the South Asian country. It forbids the insult towards any religion, but in practice this is applied most rigorously concerning Islam. The most severe penalties for the desecration of the Koran or denouncing Muhammad can be life imprisonment or death. Pakistanis coming to the defense of Bibi have not been immune from blasphemy charges themselves.
"While in Pakistan no death sentence for blasphemy has yet been executed, but several defendants have been lynched after release. Islamists are up in arms in protest against any amendments to the law, which they contend honor Allah," Barillas added. "In its present form it was introduced in 1986 by military dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. Religious minorities and liberal Muslims are demanding better protection against abuse of the law, since spurious charges are often made for revenge or material motives. Minorities such as Christians are often accused disproportionately.
"In 2011 were assassinated both the Minister for Minorities - the only Christian in the government - and the governor of Punjab province who defended him. Both criticized the blasphemy law, which is often misused to denigrate personal enemies."
World Vision In Progress, a Pakistani group, announced on February 7 that Barkat Masih, a Christian the group had defended from blasphemy charges, has been acquitted by Pakistan's supreme court.
"That Masih will not receive the death penalty has been interpreted that clemency may also be granted to Bibi," Barillas concluded.
Note: Spero News Editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator. For more information, please go to: www.speroforum.com