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Monday, 16 December 2013

Mandela Memories and Asia’s Apparition of Apartheid

Over the last week or so, the media and political leaders have waxed lyrical about the recently departed anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, and musicians have got in on the act too, reprising campaign songs that called for his release from prison in South Africa, notably the song ‘FreeNelson Mandela’.  But the world is silent about the near-apartheid conditions in Pakistan – not an apartheid of race, but an apartheid of religion.   Christians are all to often treated as second class citizens, as defiled, unclean, as subhuman.  Mandela may be the icon of the struggle against apartheid, but Pakistan’s Christian community has its icons too, one of the most prominent being an agricultural labourer and mother of five called Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’.  The incident that led to her death sentence started with hostile Muslim co-workers refusing to drink the water she had carried to them because her touch had rendered it ‘impure’ and ‘defiled.’  Mandela had been arrested after coming back from military training, and served 27 years of a life sentence.  Asia Bibi is in a far worse position, for she did nothing at all to warrant the harsher sentence of death – she has been condemned simply for being a Christian and for defending her faith.  So, while you remember Mandela, also remember the ongoing apartheid that condemns an innocent women to death, and listen to another Freedom song – not from and about the past, but about a present reality – ‘Free Asia Bibi’.  

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