SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) -- Christian prisoner Ayub Masih fled his native Pakistan and arrived in an undisclosed country in the West on Wednesday after being imprisoned for six years on blasphemy charges. Despite being acquitted and released on August 15 by Pakistanâ€™s Supreme Court, Masihâ€™s life remains under constant threat from Muslim extremists.
â€œIt is the result of prayers of the body of Christ and the grace and mercy of God the Father,â€ Masih said of his release. â€œI am grateful to Open Doorsâ€™ Brother Andrew, that he worked hard for my release and raised a lot of prayer support for me.â€
Masih appealed for the release of other Christian prisoners suffering under section 295-C of the Pakistan penal code, which mandates the death sentence for anyone convicted of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. â€œPlease pray for them too, and please work hard for their release as well. I pray that God will also release them, so He will be glorified.â€
Masih, 31, was arrested and jailed on October 14, 1996, in his village of Chak 353/IB near Arifwala, located about 200 kilometers southwest of Lahore. He was convicted and sentenced on April 27, 1998, on the verbal testimony of a Muslim neighbor who claimed Masih had blasphemed Mohammed by praising Salman Rushdieâ€™s book, â€œThe Satanic Verses.â€ Local Christians, however, said the accusation was made because of a property dispute.
A mason by profession, the Pakistani Christian has a basic high school diploma and was hoping to enroll in a Bible school in Karachi at the time of his arrest. But his conviction and death sentence given by a Sahiwal lower court changed his life and the lives of many others forever.
Bishop John Joseph committed suicide in May 1998 while defending his case. In June 1999, Masih was attacked and injured inside Sahiwal jail, but no action was taken against his attackers. On July 24, 2001, his appeal was rejected at the High Court level.
â€œSome prisoners were against me,â€ Masih said, â€œbut there were others who treated me like I was their friend. But one time close to a Muslim festival, they attacked and tried to kill me. But God the Father protected me and spared my life.â€ He seldom received treatment in prison for sickness or injury. Nevertheless, Masih said the greatest lesson he learned was to accept difficult circumstances and continue to be grateful to God.
â€œHe has an amazing testimony for a man who was falsely accused and six years of his precious life were wasted in a prison cell,â€ a source told Open Doors. â€œNot only that, but every day of his life in that prison he was under the threat of being killed. Having come out of that experience, he demonstrates Godâ€™s grace worked out in his life.â€
Ayub Masih leaves behind a brother who was beaten at the same time Masih was falsely accused and arrested. His brother suffered head injuries that continue to prevent him from working and supporting himself. He also leaves behind parents who are old and not able to support themselves.
â€œAyubâ€™s release from prison and coming out of Pakistan is no doubt a new start for him,â€ the source said, â€œbut he needs our prayers for guidance and direction for his future in his new home country.â€
Currently working in 60 countries with 23 international offices and over 300 staff worldwide, Open Doors with Brother Andrew delivers Bibles and other study materials, provides literacy training and pastoral training and advocates on behalf of those who are persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus. Open Doors will celebrate 50 years of ministry in 2005.