The Colosseum-Rome’s most famous landmark was lit up in red on Saturday February 24, 2018 in an expression of solidarity with persecuted Christians across the globe. The event took place at 6 in the evening; local time witnessed family of Asia Bibi and Nigerian Christian Rebecca Bitrus along with hundreds who had gathered outside the Roman amphitheater that is symbolic of the martyrdom of early Christians.This event was an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need, the Pontifical Foundation. Rebecca Bitrus was held by terror group Boko Haram for two years and was repeatedly raped and tortured during the captivity.
This demonstration was aimed to raise voice against persecution of Christians worldwide. The demonstrators focused on the case of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi, who is on death row for allegedly committing blasphemy. Ashiq Masih, Asia’s husband while addressing the demonstrators said: “This is just hate against Christians, who are considered impure.” He claimed that his wife was ensnared in a false blasphemy case. Asia’s daughter broke down in tears while addressing the gathering.
Addressing the gathering, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, Secretary-General of the Italian Bishop’s Conference said: “The aim of the blasphemy laws is crush people who believe differently.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State and Antoni Tajani, President of the European Parliament also spoke to the demonstrators.
Antonio Tajani said that persecution of Christians was “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 who is likely to become Italian Prime Minister after upcoming elections.
Asia Bibi who is currently behind the bars and is waiting for a hearing of her appeal against capital punishment. Asia Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy by her co-workers back in 2009. Later on, in 2010, a court in district Nankana awarded her capital punishment, which was later challenged and upheld by a two-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014. Her appeal case is currently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Supposedly her final appeal hearing on October 13 was meant to wind up the most high profile case of the country, however, it was delayed as one of the judges refused to be a part of the three member bench that was to hear the case.
Asia Bibi’s quandary lingers along due to unwarranted delay: “The case continues to be postponed due to the problems of this country. We are in the midst of a continuing war between Islam and Kufr (infidels). But our hopes for her release are many,” Advocate Saif ul Malook said last year.