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ROME: Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red on Saturday in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi who has been condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Hundreds gathered on a rainy night outside the Roman amphitheatre that is a symbol of the martyrdom of early Christians to hear the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi.

Bibi has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned on blasphemy charges.

“The aim of the blasphemy laws is [to] crush people who believe differently,” Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian bishops conference, told the gathering.

Bibi’s case drew international attention after the murder of two politicians who tried to intervene on her behalf.

At the Rome gathering, her husband Ashiq Masih said his wife was innocent.

The husband and daughter, who broke down in tears as she addressed the group, were earlier received by Pope Francis, who told her: “I think often of your mother and I pray for her”.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who has been tipped as a possible Italian prime minister after next week’s election, said that persecution of Christians was “a genocide”.

During the event, organised by the Catholic group “Aid to the Church in Need,” there were live link-ups with Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, both of whose minority Christian populations have been hit hard by wars.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2018