FAMILY HOLDS STRONG WHEN CHRISTIAN WOMAN IS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR BLASPHEMY AGAINST MUHAMMAD
|Asia Bibi received a death sentence after being convicted of blasphemy.|
Sing the petition to free Asia Bibi here!
LAHORE, Pakistan -- Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blaspheming the Islamic prophet Mohammed, has become the focus of global attention.
Believers around the world have rallied take action on behalf of the 45-year-old wife and mother.
CBN News travelled to Pakistan to speak with the family that was left behind.
Isham, 10, and her 12-year-old sister Isha played a popular Pakistani board game with their father, Ashiq Masih.
They had all the game pieces. But one important part of their family game night was missing: their mother, Asia.
CBN News spoke to Paul Marshall, author of the book 'Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide.' Click play for his comments on Asia Bibi's case and how blasphemy laws are affected Chrsitians in Muslim nations.
Asia Bibi hasn't played with her daughters since June 2009. She's confined to a small 8 ft. by 10 ft. prison cell near the Pakistan city of Faisalabad, awaiting possible death.
Asia was arrested after an argument with her Muslim co-workers.
They had refused to drink from the same water bowl as Asia, saying it was contaminated because she's a Christian.
When Asia defended her faith, the farm workers accused her of insulting the Islamic Prophet Mohmmed. She was taken into police custody soon afterward.
A local judge found Asia guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging.
Since that time, Asia's husband has had to endure ongoing threats against his family, as well as the hardship of raising two daughters alone.
He told to CBN News that the situation had only strengthened his faith in God.
"I was strong in my faith before this incident, but after the incident I am more encouraged," Masih said. "It is written in the Bible, 'In my name you will face persecution and people will blame you and curse you.' And we are facing that."
"Asia never left her faith," he shared. "She's faithful and she never denied her faith."
Asia's case has caused turmoil in Pakistan. Two prominent Pakistanis who came to her defense were assassinated by Islamists.
One of those murdered was Salman Taseer, the Muslim governor of Punjab state, who was gunned down by his own bodyguard.
The murderer is now hailed a hero by Muslim extremists. But the Pakistani judge who found him guilty and sentenced him to death has had to flee for his life.
Asia's other advocate was the Pakistani minister for minorities, Shabaz Bhatti.
Just days before he was murdered, Bhatti said he'd prefer to die for his principles -- including opposing Sharia and Pakistan's blasphemy law-- rather than give in to the threats of Islamists.
"I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us," Bhatti had said. "I know… the meaning of the cross and following the cross, and I am ready to die for a cause."
A Bittersweet Reunion
Asia's children, Isha and Isham, have rarely seen their mother during the past two and a half years.
When they've been allowed to visit her in prison, the bars of the prison cell keep them from hugging or kissing her.
Just before our recent interview, the girls were finally granted a visit with Asia outside her cell.
"This time we hugged Momma and we kissed Momma and my sister was very happy to hug and kiss Momma. Then Momma and Isha were both crying," Isham recalled.
"I was encouraging Momma and saying, 'Don't cry, Momma. Don't cry," she said. "God will help us."
Help is coming through prayer and advocacy led by Pakistani Christians and other believers around the world.
More than 400,000 people from more than 100 countries have signed a petition asking the Pakistani government to have mercy on Asia Bibi and release her from prison.
VOM held a contest asking amateurs to create a video to help raise awareness about Asia and the petitions.
Masih said his wife was elated when she learned that Christians around the world are praying and signing a petition urging her release.
"She was very happy and she said, 'I pray for them, those people who are signing, and now I have hope that I will be released soon,'" Masih quoted his wife as saying.
Little Isham is also grateful for the petition campaign.
"I want to say thank you to the people who are signing," she said. "I want to say thank you very much that you are doing so much for my momma."
"Pray for us," Masih urged CBN News. "Pray for our family. Pray for Asia that she may soon come back home and she can say thank you to the entire world when she returns home."
"We know God is alive," Isham declared. "We know He is with us. He will be with us forever!"