Rome’s Colosseum was bathed in red light on Saturday night (24 February) in solidarity with victims of religious persecution, as Reuters reported.
The light-show marked a meeting between Pope Francis and family members of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy and in prison since 2009, and Rebecca Bitrus, a Nigerian woman who escaped from Boko Haram captivity.
At the same time, the Maronite Cathedral of St. Elias in Aleppo, Syria, and the Church of St. Paul in Mosul, Iraq, were also lit up in red light to symbolise the blood of Christians killed for their faith.
Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, who visited Vatican City with their daughter, Eisham Ashiq, told Agenzia Fides that his wife “lives her imprisonment with great faith and entrusts herself to the Lord every day. We live this privilege of meeting the Holy Father with great confidence. We ask him to pray for us and with us”.
Eisham, 18, said she hopes to “see [her] mother as soon as possible, in a peaceful place and in family tranquillity. I pray for this every day”.
When Eisham met Pope Francis, he said to her: “I think often of your mother and I pray for her.”
Catholic Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, Secretary-General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, told a gathering of hundreds at the Colosseum that “the aim of the blasphemy laws is to crush people who believe differently”.
Only Pakistan’s Supreme Court can change Bibi’s death sentence. According to Joseph Nadeem, head of the Renaissance Education Foundation, which is taking care of Asia Bibi’s family and supports its legal expenses: “The lawyers are taking care of the appeal and we are awaiting a date for the hearing, which let us hope happens as soon as possible. This family lives the drama of the imprisonment of an innocent wife and mother. We have full confidence in the rule of law and the Pakistani judiciary. We are convinced that we can prove to the Supreme Court Asia Bibi’s innocence.”