By Robin Gomes
Asia Bibi who hasn’t embraced her children as yet is deeply worried about the safety of her family. Joseph Nadeem, the man who has been taking care of her family since her death sentence by a Pakistani court in 2010 for blasphemy, spoke about the family’s ordeal to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic charity and foundation that helps persecuted Christians worldwide.
“We’re afraid. In recent days, the Islamists have fired at the gate of our home. We are constantly receiving threats and on more than one occasion we have been followed,” Nadeem said.
As Asia Bibi and her husband Ashiq are practically illiterate, Nadeem went out to help them with lawyers and accompanied Ashiq and their younger daughter Eisham on their travels abroad, giving testimony of their suffering and raising support for Asia.
In a landmark ruling on Oct. 31, Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared Asia Bibi innocent and ordered her release.
Two families targeted
Today, Nadeem’s family that is sheltering Asia Bibi’s children, are also in danger. “As soon as Asia was acquitted, we had to flee,” Nadeem said, adding that the wife and husband are in a safe place, protected by the government, but his family could not be with them.
Since then, Nadeem’s family and Asia’s two daughters have had to change houses four times. “The Islamists hunt us down and every time we realize that we are in danger we immediately run away. We can’t even go and buy food. I only go out at night with my face covered,” Nadeem said.
Nadeem said he met Asia Bibi once soon after her release but they talk on the phone every day. He said Asia is aware of the difficult situation and is very worried about her daughters.
Nadeem expressed admiration for the resilience of Asia Bibi after all she went through. “She is an incredible woman! She has kept an unshakable faith and an infinite trust in the Lord,” he said. “It may seem strange but it is she who supports us in these difficult times. She invites us not to be discouraged and says that compared to what she has been through so far, this is only a brief moment that will pass.”
Hoping to reunite
Esha and Eisham have not yet embraced their mother, Nadeem said, but they are able to regain a bit of their family life on the phone. He recalled the first phone call the two daughters had with their mother. The two sisters cried for hours for joy. Asia is looking forward to meeting them and hopes to leave the country soon with her family, he said.
Nadeem and the two girls have informed their mother about the media interest aroused worldwide around her case. “International attention and solidarity comfort us,” Nadeem said, adding Eisham was moved when she saw her video message projected during the Nov. 20 #RedVenice event in Venice, Italy, that drew attention to persecuted Christians worldwide. “All of us, including Asia, are grateful to those who raise their voices to denounce our situation,” Nadeem said.
Nadeem said they are waiting to leave Pakistan for a safe place. Aid to the Church, he said, was the first to come to offer them hospitality and they hope the two families will be able to spend Christmas together in Rome. (Source: ACN)