As this month's front cover reminds us, this year's season of Lent commences with Ash Wednesday on 5 March and extends until Holy Saturday, 19 April. According to the Gospel accounts, Our Lord spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting prior to beginning his public ministry and during that time was tempted by Satan.
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis urges Christians to carry out acts of self-denial and to help those less fortunate: "We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it."
One of the many possibilities raised by the Pope's words "practical steps" might be a response to the following.
Two Christian-based Spanish organisations, the family organisation HazteOir and the human rights group, MasLibres, have joined forces to send a delegation to Pakistan to plead for the life of a young Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who has been imprisoned for over four years in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy. She has been sentenced to death, and is currently appealing her conviction.
Working as a farmhand in June 2009, she was asked to fetch water for some of her co-workers. She complied, but some of her fellow farmhands refused to drink the water as they considered Christians to be "unclean".
Witnesses complained that Bibi verbally abused the two women, their religion, and the prophet Muhammad – allegations she completely denied – and she was charged with blasphemy. She was convicted on the evidence of local Muslims. The case attracted wide publicity, both in Pakistan and abroad.
Later, Pakistan's Christian Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, were both assassinated by extremists for advocating on her behalf and opposing the blasphemy laws.
Italy, France, and Spain have all offered to grant her and her family asylum in the event of her release.
If you wish to help the Spanish organisations lobby for her release in Pakistan, and to secure asylum overseas, donations can be made on the web site of Maslibres, or at the web site of CitizenGo.The link for donation is at www.haztesocio.org/haz-un-donativo-para-apoyar-la-campana-maslibres-org.
Peter Westmore, publisher of AD2000.