Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who served eight years in Pakistan on false charges of blasphemy, recently shared how God ministered to her during her incarceration, emboldening her faith and giving her the strength to stand firm in the face of death.
Bibi, who has since been freed and was granted asylum in Canada, addressed the International Religious Freedom Summit through a translator earlier this month, as reported by The Christian Post.
She explained how the imprisonment, which gained the international attention of charity and activist groups, believes that a little bird that would visit her cell each morning was a sign from God that led her to “grow strong in faith.”
Bibi was arrested in 2009 after villagers accused her of contaminating the water supply by drinking out of it, as Christians are viewed as “impure.” After an argument ensued, the villagers accused her of having blasphemed the prophet Muhammad, which is a crime in Pakistan, as The Christian Post explains.
She has maintained that the charges of blasphemy were always false and that the charges were fabricated amid ongoing tension between her family and other community members.
Nonetheless, she was beaten in her home, arrested, and charged with death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
“I was doing fine with my family prior to 2009 when the incident occurred,” she explained while speaking to the summit, blaming “public pressure” for the result of her charges and sentence.
Bibi was finally acquitted in 2018 after years of international outcry over her detention, yet even then, nations such as the United Kingdom declined to offer her asylum, fearing backlash from the Islamic community.
When first imprisoned, Bibi felt hopeless, yet she believes that God sent her a sign of comfort which revived her faith in the form of a small visitor in her cell.
“After a week of continued weeping and crying out to [the] Lord, one of the early mornings I [saw] one of the bird visited … nearby the same area where I was [imprisoned], and it was looking like somebody is talking to me,” she said, as quoted by the Post.
“At first, I was really astonished when I saw [that] some bird is looking at me. I thought, ‘what happened?’” she explained, saying she believed that this bird was a confirmation that her father had been correct when he told her, “sometimes, God reveals [Himself] to someone in different ways.”
“I don’t know why this word came out from my mouth, but I said, ‘peace be upon you.’ … I was talking to a bird,” she explained.
The bird would become her constant companion, visiting each morning, even when she moved jails, amazingly.
“That situation lifted me up, and my hope started. So this practice carried on for [the] next three years. At the same time, at 4 a.m., the same bird visited me, and that lifted me up,” she explained.
“They transferred me from that jail where I was, where … the bird was visiting me, to another jail,” the prisoner-turned-activist explained. “My prison changed from one area to [the] other area, but the bird [kept] on visiting me in that jail also. So I started keeping up the same practice [of] feeding them … and that’s also …. giving me courage to grow more in my faith. … I was sharing my faith even with those birds also, and that has led me to be more strong in faith.”
In Corrie ten Boom’s memoir The Hiding Place, which recounts her imprisonment in Nazi-occupied Holland for hiding Jews in her family home, she described a similar regular visit from a small army of ants, with whom she also shared sentience while being kept in solitary confinement.
As Boom is set to leave the cell for a workcamp, she tried to give her little friends a final goodbye but found they were hiding.
“And suddenly I realized that this too was a message, a last wordless communication among neighbors,” she writes in the book. “For I, too, had a hiding place when things were bad. Jesus was this place, the Rock cleft for me.”
As the tiny bird comforted Bibi within the jail, the intercession of the saints around the world also gave her courage, as her children told her when they came to visit that “the people are praying for me.”
These prayers led to what she credits as her “miracle” release and now much-cherished freedom.
Bibi encouraged Christian “children, youth and the families in Pakistan” to “grow in their faith” and “stay strong in their faith.”
Bibi, like ten Boom will no doubt be remembered as one of the great heroes of the faith, as her horrific trial, emboldened faith, and miracle release all serve as a reminder that even in the darkest places, God can minister to our hearts and work in the most extraordinary ways.
What a mighty God we serve!
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