November 1, 2018 by Robert Kenna in Stories of Persecution
November 1, 2018, will forever be the day after one of the most well-known prisoners in the world was released. Asia Noreen (better known as Asia Bibi, which means sister Asia) was arrested in June 2009 after a dispute with some Muslim women. She was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. Ever since she was held on death row.
Most of the past eight years Asia Bibi has spent in solitary confinement. Most women in her prison wake up before 5 am for their morning prayers. The cells are unlocked at that time and a breakfast of tea and roti (Pakistani flatbread) is given to them.
Someone like Asia Bibi had to prepare her own meal with the little ingredients that were given to her. One reason she had to cook for herself was so that she wouldn’t be poisoned easily. After breakfast, most prisoners were allowed to wash. We don’t know if Asia was granted that privilege.
During the mornings the women had to perform their daily tasks such as cleaning. Some say Asia had to perform the most demeaning tasks, but it’s also possible she would have had to stay in her cell. Either way, every day was the same day in prison.
WHERE IS ASIA?
Now Asia is free, assuming that the Supreme Court’s order was carried out immediately. The authorities are not sharing any details about her whereabouts for her own safety. Her life may be threatened more than ever, especially if she is still in the country. In Pakistan, the media are not allowed to speculate on where she is.
Meanwhile, protests have erupted in many cities around Pakistan, and the government has a hard time controlling the situation. It prompted newly elected Prime Minister Khan to air a brief video message in which he warned groups who have railed against the Supreme Court’s ruling. Pakistan was founded “in the name of Islam” and the verdict given by the Supreme Court is in accordance with the Constitution, which is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah (traditional practice of the Islamic community based on the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), Khan said. He sharply criticized the protests.
However, his words were not comforting to Christians.
“While watching the broadcast, I was waiting for him to say something sympatric to us,” a leader of Open Doors partner organization ALIVE said. “He [Khan] said this was costing the nation money and is bringing banks and working environments to a halt. He also said that the Supreme Court’s ruling is final. However, he did not once celebrate or say one word of rejoicing for Asia and he did not once call for the safety of minorities and he did not once speak to us to say ‘Do not fear.’ It was a cold, calculated speech. He was indifferent to Christians. He told the extremists to get off the road, but there was no warning against persecution of Christians.”
“What do the extremists want?” we asked this ALIVE representative.
“They want blood. So what will happen when they get off the road? We fear they will come to the churches and attack them. We have to trust in God. He is sovereign and our King,” she said.
WHO WILL PAY THE PRICE?
Who will pay the price for Asia’s release? One argument over some water, a quick exchange of words, destroyed Asia’s life. Nine long years she was away from her family and locked up in a cold, hard prison. Her husband and children needed to hide. Her life will never be carefree.
The extremists want to avenge the ruling in the name of Islam. In their view, someone must pay for allowing Asia to go free. And it’s already happening, according to Pakistani Christians. A nurse in Pakistan told us, “Please pray for us. We are all being harassed mercilessly this morning. They are trying to distract us and say things while we administer meds or injections or other sensitive processes. Someone tampered with my kit this morning: they call us names and the stress is escalating. I am scared.”
The nurse later hid in the bathroom and called an ALIVE team member and prayed in whispers with her. She specifically asked for prayer for Christian nurses across the country.
“Yesterday I went to pick up my young son, Brian,” a Christian father shares. “I waited 15 minutes. Brian is always out of school waiting at the gate. This time he took 15 minutes to come out: he was so afraid. He was hiding in his classroom’s stationary cupboard. He waited until the kids were gone and then raced out to the gate. He didn’t know why the school was being called off for the day, but he heard the principal say ‘Christian kids need to go home.’”
“His teacher responded, ‘No, Christian kids can’t be the only ones to miss studies. Everyone must go home.’ Those 15 minutes were the longest of my life,” he says. “I was trembling while waiting for him. This Monday, when my son goes back to school, what world will he step into?”
In addition, we heard that a Christian teacher was thrown out of a taxi after the driver discovered she was a Christian. “I was on the phone with my husband,” she says, “I ended the call with ‘Jesus will keep you safe.’”
A Christian with a high position at a local institution was told by his superior to go home. “It was an official note that all Christians had to go home. Was it really for my safety? Or was it threat? Will I still have a job when I come back to work? I don’t know. All I could do was have a thanksgiving meal with my family to celebrate Asia’s release. I can only rejoice today. Tomorrow is in Jesus’ hands.’”
Source: Open Doors USA
Photo: Open Doors