A Pakistani Christian who spent almost a decade on death row for accusations of blasphemy spoke to an international gathering on religious freedom this week. Asia Bibi addressed the International Religious Freedom Summit and told them how her ordeal transformed her from an “ordinary Christian” into a bold Christian who passionately stands up for her faith and her suffering brothers and sisters.
Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009 when a group of women accused her of making their water supply “impure.” Christians are considered impure, and she was drinking from the same bucket as her co-workers. An argument ensued, and someone reported her to a Muslim cleric, accusing her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Bibi was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010. She spent the first four years of her sentence in a prison near her home. In 2015, the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to hear her case, and they ultimately overturned the conviction in the fall of 2018. She was also offered asylum in Canada.
According to The Christian Post, through an interpreter, Bibi told the audience that the Lord revealed himself to her in prison and sustained her through her incarceration. One morning she was praying fervently and a bird landed nearby. The bird gazed at her intently, and she told the bird, “Peace be with you.” She believed the bird was God’s way of revealing himself to her. She fed the bird each morning at the same time while she prayed. She said this, “Lifted me up, and my hope started.”
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan “have been used by those who are unhappy with Christians or a particular Christian,” said Patrick Sookdeho of the Barnabas Fund. He also claimed that the laws are a tool that citizens use to get revenge on those with whom they are angry. He noted that five Christians are on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan right now, and fifteen have been murdered because of blasphemy allegations, many of them before the trial took place.
Sookdeho explained that the trouble in Pakistan is not the government but rather “the institutions of society.” He said the government is working to eliminate discriminatory practices, but Christians are at the bottom of society and the nation’s religious establishment has resisted changes.
Bibi’s experiences have led her to “be a voice for Christian brothers and sisters.” She called on her fellow believers to “join hands and stand together so we can be a voice for our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering and help them out of their situations like the Lord has done for me.”
Photo courtesy: ©HazteOir.org/Flickr/Creative Commons
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”