|Daughters of Asia Bibi hold a photo of their mother who has been in prison for four years
There were many stories this past week, some of which went viral such as Miley Cyrus’ twerking at the VMA and the subsequent rants and outrage that followed, and the touching photo that made its way across the internet at lightening speed of Kelly Cottle as she carried her double amputee husband Jesse on a piggyback ride during a trip to Idaho. There was also the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr once gave his famed “I have a dream” speech. Another huge story this past week
is was Bishop T.D. Jakes Megafest, one of the largest Christian gatherings said to have ever converged in the city of Dallas, Texas. None of these stories really moved me the way like this one I am about to talk about did.
The big headline for me is about a Christian woman, named Asia Bibi, whose story emerged of her plight and suffering as she sits in a jail cell somewhere in Pakistan since 2009 awaiting her death sentence to be executed. Her only crime it seems was drinking a cup or two of water from a well in a berry field on a sunny, hot, sweltering day.
Upon reading the story, first through a link on my facebook feed and later in the New York Post and other websites, I immediately felt sick to my stomach. I gulped the air of anger and it tasted bitter. The whole thing so sickening, it’s more than nuts! I turned my anger first towards God and in my cry, I asked one simple question, “why have you forsaken that woman? Why, God?” I clenched my teeth as I fought back the tears for Asia.
If I may retract a bit, in additional research, it is said that Pope Benedict spoke publicly on her behalf. France offered her political asylum. The United Nations has heard all about her. There is a book co-written with French television journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet called Blasphemy that tells Asia’s story. There are websites. There is even a petition for appeal. Yet, I found reason enough to direct my anger at others in high places who may have heard about her situation and have done little, if anything at all to save this simple woman from a swollen foot in a stinking, windowless tiny jail cell and mostly, from that curse of death.
I sense that you may be asking, so what’s the big fuss here? Well, if you asked, in answer, I thought about how it could have been me, how it could have been you, how it could have been our mother, sister, aunty, cousin and our niece sitting in that jail cell and wanting to be freed.
You see, in 2009, Asia Bibi, the wife of a brick maker and mother of five went picking berries to earn an extra 250 Pakistani rupees near her simple home in Punjab. In doing the math, that would be about $2.50. All the other berry pickers were Muslim.
It is said that Asia’s story all begun when she used a common cup to take water twice from a well in the berry field. Another woman shouted at her that she made the water haram, or unclean for them [Muslims] Perhaps Asia did not think or did not know that detail of the laws of cleanliness. Foremost in her mind, it seems, would be her thirst on a 100 degrees that day and so she took two cups of water. When confronted, she said to her accusers, “I think Jesus would see it differently from Muhammad.”
It turned out not to be the best comment to make on a hot June day to a crowd of angry women in the second most populous Muslim majority country – almost 3 million Christians and 3 million Hindus in Pakistan compared to 174 million or 97 percent being Muslims.
By all accounts, the confrontation got nasty. They called Asia a filthy Christian and Jesus a bastard. They challenged her to convert to Islam. She countered, “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 who converts instead of you?” Then it got worse.
Somehow, Asia escaped alive, but five days later, she went back to pick some berries and earn some rupees. A mob beat and dragged her to the law, which some months later found her guilty of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad and sentenced her to death.
They say she is the only woman so sentenced in this century. She has been waiting in filthy prison cells for four years now, first an hour away from her family, now another five hours away.
Before they moved her a few months ago, Asia is said to have lived on food her husband brought. Now she takes the common prison meals, always fearing poison. There is a 5,000 euro bounty offered to Muslim cleric to the one who kills her.
She is not the only person, male or female, Christian, Hindu or Muslim who are stuck in some Pakistani prison suffering because of real or imagined charges of blasphemy. And while we can agree that disrespect for another’s religious belief is a deeply serious affliction in any situation or society, we must all agree that this four years’ inhumane imprisonment for a simple woman as Asia is more than enough.
I agree wholeheartedly with another writer’s perspective that Jesus and Muhammad would see it exactly the same way.
My thoughts. God is one for mercy, grace, and compassion. He is the God of love. He is love. He loved the world so much – you, me and Asia included, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus] to die upon an old rugged cross over 2000 years ago for our sins so that we do not perish but that we may LIVE and go on to have life everlasting. He came not to condemn the world, again you, me and Asia, but that the world through Him might be saved. It is time to set Asia Bibi free, in no other name, but the name of Jesus!
More from the week that was series here