The ancient Colosseum in Rome was illuminated in red on Saturday in protest against persecution of Christians around the world, Reuters reported. Catholic group Aid to the Church in Need organised the protest at the amphitheatre, where the first Christians were killed centuries ago.
The protestors focused on the case of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after her neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass as she is not Muslim.
Bibi’s case drew global attention after two politicians who tried to intervene in the case on her behalf were murdered. People gathered outside the Colosseum on Saturday to hear Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih and her daughter speak. “This is just hate against Christians, who are considered impure,” Masih said, adding that his wife was wrongly accused of blasphemy.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani – the frontrunner for the Italian prime minister’s post in next week’s elections – called the persecution of Christians “a genocide” and said it was Europe’s duty “to defend these values [of religious liberty] wherever on earth they are trampled on”.
Blasphemy is a criminal offence in Pakistan, and insults against Prophet Mohammad are punishable by death. Human rights group Amnesty International said religious extremists as well as ordinary citizens exploited Pakistan’s blasphemy law for personal reasons.
In April 2017, a mob lynched a student of the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mashal Khan, over allegations of blasphemy. In September 2017, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy after he sent an allegedly anti-Islamic poem to a Muslim friend on WhatsApp. Similarly, in June 2017, a man from the Pakistan’s minority Shia community got the death penalty for allegedly sharing blasphemous content about Islam on Facebook.