Condemned to Death Over a Cup of Water

Asia Bibi on Death Row

“I want my small voice to be heard….” Blasphemy: A Memoir. Asia Bibi with Anne Isabelle Tollet.

Illiterate. “Untouchable.” Christian. And a Woman. But Asia Discovers Her Voice.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was condemned to die by hanging in Pakistan seven years ago–literally for sharing a cup of water. She’s been in prison ever since.

These posts on Asia Bibi are the start of a series on Stories of Reckless Faith.

Updated 5/14/17. Asia’s final appeal for her life was scheduled to come before Pakistan’s Supreme Court late last year. Sadly, one of the three judges recused himself, so she remains on death row. Perhaps his decision was influenced by the fact that two men brave enough to support Asia were assassinated for their stand. Governor Taseer was shot by his own bodyguard, who is celebrated as a hero and a martyr on the streets of Lahore. Minister Bhatti was gunned down on the street in broad daylight.

Her lawyer requested a new court date in June. Sadly, his request was denied.
Please pray she’ll be freed!

A French journalist, Anne Isabelle Tollet, has worked with Asia, her husband and her then-attorney to capture her account in a book. Blasphemy: A Memoir is fascinating reading. I know so much better how to pray for Asia now, and I truly feel like she’s a sister.

Although Asia is illiterate, this is her book. Her attorney read every page to her in prison and she signed each one to make it clear this is her statement to the world.

One of many things that strikes me in Asia’s story is how she’s been schooled all her life in silent compliance.

As a Christian.

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….

As an illiterate. As a woman.

I’m not educated enough to understand politics…. Women of my position don’t ask questions or join in discussions of that kind. It’s only now that I realize what a shame it is that men think women don’t need to know anything about things like that. After all, we are subject to the same laws….

Women of my kind aren’t expected to speak at all, let alone… in front of strangers….

As a person of a certain ancestry.

When I was a little girl my mother told me we were what they called “untouchable,” because we were descendants of low-caste Hindus…

Okay. Not to mince words, it pisses me off.

But God’s big truths have always been evident to those who care to see them, as the Apostle Paul says. (Rom 1:20, 2:14) They may fly in the face of culture, custom and tradition. They will reveal themselves to those with an ear to listen, and one of these profound truths is that the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus…. heirs according to promise. Gal 3:27-29

I think there’s a lesson for us all in the way the Lord has used Asia’s horrible circumstances (and trust me, the conditions in which they’re keeping her are horrific) to reveal to her that she has a God-given voice. No matter how others around her want to define her.

Hear how it rings out as she confronts her coworkers who called her religion “unclean” and demanded she convert to Islam.

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 Muhammad ever do to save mankind? And why should it be me that converts instead of you?”

Her voice rings out in the words of her book as well. I clearly hear her yearning to be with her family again—for the simple joys they shared in the one-room mud-walled house where she cooked in an iron pot over an open hearth outdoors. When the book was written, her family had been forced into hiding. Her husband could not work; her four daughters could not attend school.

I also hear her yearning for the right to freely worship God in a community of believers again. The excitement she felt a few times a year when they could afford the two-hour minibus ride to church. The fellowship she misses with her dear Christian friend in her village.

In Asia’s words:

At home we didn’t keep any crosses or icons… just a small Bible hidden under the mattress. I can’t read and neither can Ashiq, but that Bible is our own little treasure. It is written on our hearts.

May we all have enough reckless faith to follow Asia’s humble example. The kind of narrow-path faith that seems to swim more and more against the stream around us. The kind of faith Jesus spoke of when he said, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

The faith to write God’s word on our hearts and take a costly stand for its truths. 

Additional Posts from This Stories of Reckless Faith Series

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4 Comments

  1. Teresa Youngblood says:

    Prayers for your work for the Lord. Can Bibi receive letters? I would love to correspond with one of them. My heart is breaking for them.

    • Hi, Teresa! Thank you so much for your prayers–they’re the fragrance of heaven (Rev 5:8)! I especially covet them for the thousands who face imprisonment and even martyrdom for Christ. 🙁 When they survey persecuted Christians about what they want most, the answer is prayer!
      If you go to this website, there’s a chance to write a letter to Asia. I’m sure she won’t see it, but the letters assure her wardens that the world has not forgotten her! There’s also an opportunity to petition several officials.
      https://www.prisoneralert.com/pprofiles/vp_prisoner_197_profile.html
      Thanks so much for your comments and your support for Asia… Best regards, Linda

  2. Patty Grigsby says:

    Linda, Thank you for sharing Asia’s story with us. I am so humbled when I read of the amazing faith of these persecuted believers, and I pray, “Father, give us the strength to stand in the face of whatever comes our way, as these brothers and sisters do.” I pray that this beautiful woman of God will be set free to be with her family once again. Thank you for showing us the great need for prayer in our world, as the time seems to be growing short. In His Strong Love, Patty

    • So well said, Patty! Asia and all the others humble me too. I can only hope I will be as faithful if I’m ever called on to make similar sacrifices! I agree that time is short… I really feel that!
      Blessings, Linda

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