Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent eight years on death row accused of blasphemy, always believed she would be freed.
“It was very hard. I suffered. A lot of people tried to mislead me. They said change your faith, and you’ll be freed. But I said no. I will live my sentence. With my faith,” she said, speaking of the time she was in prison, mistreated by other prisoners and the guards, in an interview with the BBC.
“I found out from my husband that the whole world was praying for me. And that even the Pope had prayed for me. That made me happy. And I found out the whole world was praying for my misery to end.
“God won’t leave you alone: he is always with us.” – Asia Bibi
“That made me feel that their prayers would definitely free me.”
She retold her story how, in 2009, a dispute with neighbours led to a group of local women accusing her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
“My husband was at work, my kids were in school, I had gone to pick fruit in the orchard,” she said. “A mob came and dragged me away. They made fun of me, I was very helpless.”
The Church Times reports that she has forgiven those who abused her in prison and the neighbours who accused her. “I am not angry at all. I have forgiven everyone from my heart. And there is no hardness in me. There is patience in me because I learnt how to be patient when I had to leave my children behind.”
She later spoke to Open Doors, the charity the supports persecuted Christians. “When I was born, the priest told my mother: ‘This girl is going to be tested by God.’ And my parents kept telling me this story; so I knew that this was going to happen some day.”
She told Open Doors she had never doubted God. “My faith has always been strong because my family had a lot of devotion, but it did get stronger, because now I know that God is with me — and God won’t leave you alone: he is always with us.”
Ms Bibi was finally acquitted by the Pakistan Supreme Court on the grounds of insufficient evidence. She was eventually allowed to leave the country last May. She has published a book (in French) – which will be available in English in September – and has been giving interviews in France, but lives in Canada.