Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who spent almost ten years under death penalty for allegations of blasphemy against the state religion Islam but is now freed, desires to be an advocate for persecuted Christians worldwide.
Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 after a colleague charged her of disparaging Islam after an argument. Pakistan punishes blasphemy by death. The country’s penal code usually is used against religious minorities and criminalizes speech that defile or insult Islam. Pakistan is one of only four countries who has the strictest blasphemy laws in the world as it sentences people who blaspheme against Islam with death penalty.
Bibi, who is now 50 years old, gave a speech last Wednesday through a video message from Canada to the International Religious Freedom Summit and expressed her thankfulness to secure her release from prison.
“From the bottom of my heart I am very thankful to the Lord, who has rescued me from my sufferings and difficulties,” Bibi said in the English translated video message. “He has given me a fresh start and the opportunity to start a new life with my family.”
Bibi is now safe in Canada and she said that she “wants to be a voice for Christian people, Christians in prison, and in difficulties.”
Appeal to the High Courts
Bibi appealed her death sentence; however, her conviction was upheld by the Lahore High Court in 2014. She was granted acquittal to her case in 2018 when she appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. She was not allowed to leave the country by officials even after their request to overturn her acquittal was rejected. Pakistani radical Muslims were enraged at her acquittal and threated to murder her. In the end, she was granted a Canadian refugee status and was reunited with her family in May 2019.
Her video message described what her life was like in Pakistan before she was accused, arrested, and convicted for blasphemy. Most of her happiest memories involved celebrations of Easter and Christmas with her family.
She also shared how she overcame fear through her faith.
“When I was in prison, I was very worried about my children and husband. I was not aware where they were and whether they were safe or not. At the same time, I had a hope in the Lord,” Bibi explained. “Thanks to all of the brothers and sisters who prayed and fasted. Because of their prayers, I am now free.”
Bibi shared a wonderful experience on how a bird would regularly call on her when she feels downtrodden in prison. She considered that the feathered friend was a sign from God that she should have more faith in Him.