In June of 2009, during a dispute with a neighbor, a Pakistani Christian named Asia Bibi was accused and found guilty of blaspheming Mohammad, Islam's prophet.
The story began while Asia was working in the fields picking falsa-berries to earn extra money for her impoverished family. Seeking relief from the heat, Asia drew water from a well that a neighbor felt should have been only for Muslims. Here is a portion of her account released from this New York Post article in August 2013:
I pull up a bucketful of water and dip in the old metal cup resting on the side of the well. The cool water is all I can think of. I gulp it down and I feel better; I pull myself together.
Then I start to hear muttering. I pay no attention and fill the cup again, this time holding it out to a woman next to me who looks like she’s in pain. She smiles and reaches out . . . At exactly the moment Musarat pokes her ferrety nose out from the bush, her eyes full of hate:
“Don’t drink that water, it’s haram!”
Musarat addresses all the pickers, who have suddenly stopped work at the sound of the word “haram,” the Islamic term for anything forbidden by God.
“Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!”
It’s so unfair that for once I decide to defend myself and stand up to the old witch.
“I think Jesus would see if differently from Mohammed.”
Musarat is furious. “How dare you think for the Prophet, you filthy animal!”
Three other women start shouting even louder.
“That’s right, you’re just a filthy Christian! You’ve contaminated our water and now you dare speak for the Prophet! Stupid bitch, your Jesus didn’t even have a proper father, he was a bastard, don’t you know that.”
Musarat comes over as though she’s going to hit me and yells: “You should convert to Islam to redeem yourself for your filthy religion.”
I feel a pain deep inside. We Christians have always stayed silent: We’ve been taught since we were babies never to say anything, to keep quiet because we’re a minority. But I’m stubborn too and now I want to react, I want to defend my faith. I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with courage.
“I’m not going to convert. I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”
After this devastating encounter, Asia ultimately found herself accused, beaten, imprisoned and found guilty of blaspheming Mohammed. The penalty for blasphemy in Pakistan is death, and since that fateful day, Asia has been locked away on death row, awaiting her final fate.
Pakistani leaders who have recognized the injustice of Asia Bibi's case have sought to intervene, including Salman Taseer, former governor of the Punjab province, and fellow Christian Shabaz Bhatti, former Minister for Minority Affairs. Both were assassinated as they advocated for an end to Pakistan's blasphemy law and for justice for Asia Bibi.
Just a few weeks ago, Asia Bibi sent a Christmas letter to Pope Francis. The letter is contradiction of both joy and sorrow. Pain and hope. Faith and uncertainty:
"I do not know how long I can go on and on. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me. I have met many people who speak and fight for me. Unfortunately still to no avail. At this time I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible. Only He can liberate me."
In the Bible, there were times when God orchestrated miracles to bring freedom to prisoners of Christ. In Acts 12: 6-12, Peter was miraculously freed from prison by an angel of the Lord. In Acts 16:25-34, an earthquake loosened the chains of prisoners, Paul and Silas, and ultimately led to faith in Christ by the jailer in charge.
The book Blasphemy: A Memoir: Sentenced to Death Over a Cup of Water, details Asia Bibi's story. As we at The Institute have read the book, and now Asia's letter to Pope Francis, we are moved to ask God to do a miracle once more.
Please join The Institute in praying for the miraculous rescue of Asia Bibi.