L-R Mehwish Bhatti (National Executive BACA), Father of Nabeel Masih Amanat Masih and his brother Wakeel Masih.
A teenage boy sentenced to 10 years in jail for posting a picture of a pig’s head on top of the Kabba says reading the Bible in Urdu has helped him spiritually. He keeps himself busy throughout the monotous years in a dingy Pakistani cell by ‘praying and reading God’s word.”
Nabeel Masih from the small village Chak 66, Bhai Pheru, District Kasur, says the regular reading of the Urdu bible is a skill he acquired through the perseverance of his parents. All Christian parents teach their children to read the Bible, they may never be able to write Urdu well, as you need to aqcuire a skill in spelling and using vocabulary in script at school, sadly he did not attend long enough to learn. Nabeel is classed as illiterate after leaving school in the 4th Grade to support his family financially through working at a packing centre – he knows absolutely nothing of the English language.
Nabeel, now 19, has served three years of a ten-year term he received in May 2018 when he was 16, after allegations that he had posted blasphemous images, against Islam on his Facebook. Nabeel however has always insisted that the images were posted by Muslim friends and has argued through his advocate that he cannot read or write and does not use Facebook.
BACA representative Mehwish Bhatti went to visit him along with his brother Wakeel (22 years) and father Amanat (65 yrs) in Kasur Jail on 3rd August 2019 for half an hour. Nabeel is kept in solitary confinement and Mehwish had to go through several security checks to meet with Nabeel.
Despite his many youthful years inside a Pakistani jail Nabeel found the fortitude to meet all three visitors with a big smile and customary greetings.
During his discussion with Mehwish, Nabeel shared his fears for his family, he said:
“When I am isolated in my cell all I think about is my family and I fear that someone may have been hurt because of the hate people have for me.
“It was good to hear that they are all surviving well and I am praying for a swift exit from this cell with God’s help – so that I will be able to unite with them all again soon.
“It is a cause of great distress to me that my whole village especially all the people who I have interacted with for so many years, could turn on me and call for my death.
“What pains me more is that I am innocent and a known illiterate, but despite this I remain in a cell and the Muslims who actually committed the crime enjoy freedom.
“I know God does everything as per His plan and one day I will be free – till then I am reading my Urdu bible which I have learnt to read whilst in prison – it provides me with great solace.”
Nabeel who is managing to read his bible, is being helped to understand it by Mehwish who shares the word of God for encouragement. Nabeel has has requested more frequent visits from her and we hope to be able to organise these in future.
Mehwish has explained to Nabeel Masih that with his brothers’ blessing, British Asian Christian Association have taken over the provision of an advocate for him. Moreover, that we believe we have a strong case for an appeal and are collating all the salient facts for a submission to the High Court with urgency. Our appointed advocate is going to remind trhe courts that there is no evidence to suggest that Nabeel Masih had designed the derogatory image, and that when it was saved onto a Facebook profile in his name that was done by Muslim colleagues – the same Muslim colleagues that created the profile. Nabeel Masih was only educated until 4th Grade in Pakistan and learnt very basic Urdu he has absolutely no knowledge of the English language – as such operating and installing apps like Facebook are beyond him. BPCA advocates are due to submit an Appeal for Nabeel’s bail on 12th September at Kasur District Court.
Mehwish Bhatti, National Executive in Pakistan for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“Nabeel has lost some of the most important years of his life under the yoke of a false blasphemy conviction.
“He was a capable student who was also working before he was imprisoned – but he lost all his aspirations when accused.
“Because of his age and the extremely provoking allegations against him his case made international headlines, yet ultimately justice failed him in Pakistan.
“He now holds a pariah status equal to Asia Bibi and it will be extremely dangerous for him in Pakistan, poor Nabeel will probably have to undergo a swift exit to a country of safety on his release.
“With his life full of so many major unknowns he will feel destabilised for some time – yet his heart does not rage against God but yearns for Him.
“With just a modicum of his faith we could move mountains – I am sure just as in the case of Saint Paul his shackles will be released.”
BACA has raised sufficient funds to support the legal cost for an advocate for Nabeel and are supporting the family financially to replace the lost wages of Nabeel Masih and cover court and prison attendance costs. If you would like to support the work of the BACA then please donate by (clicking here).