God is good! Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian who spent eight years in prison on blasphemy charges and six months in protective custody following her acquittal, has finally left Pakistan to be reunited with her family and start a new chapter in her life.
We are overjoyed that after years of unjust imprisonment and uncertainty while under protective custody, this devout Christian woman has finally been able to embrace her freedom. It has been a long and extremely difficult journey for her and her family. Asia Bibi’s steadfast faith is a true inspiration to millions of Pakistani Christians and to all of us worshipping freely in the World.
Asia Bibi was arrested in 2009 after allegedly making derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammad during an argument with a Muslim woman while working in the field. The Muslim woman had refused water from Asia on the grounds that it was ‘unclean’ because it had been handled by a Christian.
Asia was found guilty in 2010, becoming the first woman to be sentenced to death under Article 295C of Pakistan’s penal code, which imposes death sentences for offences of defamation against Mohammad.
In the summer of 2015, Asia was granted leave to appeal her death sentence. Finally, in November 2018, she was acquitted of any wrongdoing and released from prison. But due to mass protests by anti-Christian hardliners, she was barred from leaving the country as an appeal against her acquittal was launched.
On 29 January 2019, the appeal was thrown out and the Supreme Court upheld its decision to free Asia. She remained under government protective custody in Pakistan while her two daughters were believed to have been granted asylum in Canada.
And today she is free to join them!
“We have been praying for over ten years,” an Open Doors partner said, commenting on her absolute acquittal in January 2019. “And finally it’s a 100 per cent certain that she will be free. We thank everybody who has stood with us in prayer for all these years. The Supreme Court’s brave verdict and decision to stick with the acquittal means that it is still possible for a Christian to receive justice in Pakistan. Even though it took a very long time, there is hope.”
PRAYING WITH ASIA BIBI AND THE CHURCH IN PAKISTAN
Thank you so much for all of your prayers. “Aasiya Bibi is a much loved and prayed for woman” an Open Doors’ spokesman said in January.
- Pray for Asia’s continued protection and safety, her family and others around her as they seek to recover and heal from their long wait for freedom.
- Pray for Asia and her family as they begin to rebuild a new life together. Ask God to place people in their lives who will nurture them and get them the help they need.
- Pray that they will be strong witnesses for the gospel to the people they encounter.
- Pray for peace in Pakistan. Ask God to intervene against plans for any violent protests and attacks on Christians and churches.
- Pray that this landmark case will compel courts to review blasphemy cases with increasing discernment and courage to overturn arrests and convictions.
- Pray for Christians convicted of blasphemy awaiting trial and imprisoned in Pakistan and throughout the world.
- Pray for the 3.9 million Pakistani Christians who may live with a daily fear of being arrested and imprisoned.
Pakistan is number 5 on the World Watch List, Open Doors’ ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians experience the most extreme persecution. Historic churches have been subject to bomb attacks. All Christians suffer from institutionalised discrimination, with occupations that are seen as low, dirty and derogatory being officially reserved for Christians, most of whom are from the poorer classes. Blasphemy laws are often used to target Christians. Conversion from Islam brings great shame to family and community, and danger for the new believer.