Famous Colosseum Of Rome Lit In Red To Protest Pakistan's Blasphemy Law

| February 25 , 2018 , 11:41 IST

The ancient Colosseum of Rome was bathed in red as it was lit up on Saturday in solidarity with persecuted Christians in Pakistan, especially Asia Bibi who has been on death row in Pakistan since 2010 due to its blasphemy laws.

Hundreds gathered outside the Roman Colosseum amphitheatre which is considered to be a symbol of martyrdom of early Christians, to hear the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi.

A Pakistani Christian woman, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 after a group of Muslim women angry with her for drinking the same water as them accused her of insulting the Islamic prophet Mohammed, leading to her arrest and imprisonment.

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Bibi's husband Ashiq Masih, addressing the Rome gathering, said that his wife was innocent and did not commit blasphemy.

"This is just hate against Christians, who are considered impure," he said.

Ashiq Masih and his daughter were received by the Pope Francis, who told the girl, "I think often of your mother and I pray for her."

According to human rights groups such as Amnesty International, the blasphemy law is increasingly exploited in Pakistan by religious extremists and ordinary citizens as well as a means to settle personal scores.

"The aim of the blasphemy laws is to crush people who believe differently," Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference, said to the Rome gathering.

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The Pakistan blasphemy law does not define blasphemy and also does not require the reproduction of evidence in court for fear of committing a fresh offence. There are also no penalties for making false accusations.

The blasphemy case against Asia Bibi got international prominence after the murder of 2 politicians who attempted to intervene on her behalf.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who may soon be the next Italian prime minister after next week's election, called the persecution of Christians "a genocide".

"A message must be sent from this place. It is the duty of Europe to defend these values (of religious liberty) wherever on earth they are trampled on," Tajani said.