Asia Bibi, at last, has spoken.
Earlier this month, the Catholic mother from Pakistan who, for the past decade, became this century’s international face of persecuted Christians and stirred governments throughout the West into action on her behalf, released several short video tapes from a secret refuge in Canada. In them, she expresses her love for Jesus Christ, forgiveness for her persecutors and concern for other prisoners languishing unjustly in her native land.
In this self-filmed video, Asia Bibi tells people of faith to stay true to their beliefs: “I was granted my freedom through Jesus.” Asia was acquitted of blasphemy after spending 8 years on death row in #Pakistan. It is the first time we are hearing her voice since her release.
Posted by EWTN News Nightly on Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Bibi also reflects on her nearly 10-year ordeal of imprisonment on death row in a Pakistani prison on charges that she committed blasphemy against Islam. Her experience is unimaginable to most of us in the West, where we still have rights to religious freedom unknown in most of the world. Living under the constant threat of execution, the loneliness of solitary confinement, ordered for her own safety, was its own form of torture. She explained:
“When my daughters visited me in jail, I never cried in front of them, but when they went after meeting me in jail, I used to cry alone filled with pain and grief. I used to think about them all the time, how they are living.”
She is a modern version of what the early Church once called a “confessor of the faith” — Christians who, during the time of persecution in ancient Rome, were imprisoned or tortured for professing their faith but not martyred.
A quick recap of her case may be helpful to appreciate why the fate of one impoverished berry picker in Pakistan moved the world:
Bibi’s ordeal, which, she told British newspaper The Telegraph, caused deep suffering to her and her children, ignited in the flash of a moment in 2009, when she took a sip of water from a communal cup while harvesting berries in a hot field near her village. The other field hands, also poor women but who were Muslims, accused Bibi of being a dirty “infidel,” who defiled the cup and blasphemed their prophet. A heated exchange ensued. Bibi was dragged into town, beaten by a mob and soon arrested.
At trial, the Muslim women gave conflicting testimony and were found on a final appeal to have been manipulated by a local imam. The alleged blasphemy itself was never fully explained in court, for to do so would be to repeat the offense. Nevertheless, in 2010, the mother was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging under section 295-C of Pakistan’s 1986 blasphemy code.
As the case wended its way through the court system, it gained critical international attention, which helped keep her alive. This was initially undertaken by key Pakistani actors, whose courage cannot be overstated. Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic who was a lifelong advocate for the rights of religious minorities in his home country, was then the minister for minorities in the government’s cabinet. He quickly took up her case, making it a cause célèbre internationally. In retaliation, he was shot to death on his way to the office one morning in 2011 by assailants who have yet to be arrested.
Read more at National Catholic Register