Moment of Decision
Aafia heard the quickening footsteps behind her. She turned, knowing that someone had followed her to church. At first, when she saw her older brother, Maahir, she felt joy. Then, when she saw the round barrel of a revolver aimed at her heart, she felt fear.
“Please, don’t kill me,” Aafia pleaded.
“I must restore our family’s honor before Allah,” he declared.
“Please Lord, forgive my brother. Let Maahir know that I forgive him also,” she whispered before three shots rang out.
Aafia fell to the street in a pool of her own blood. In just a couple of short minutes, she took her last gasping breath. And God heard the voice of his sister’s “blood crying out to Him from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10b NASB)
Aafia had always loved the cacophony of the sights and sounds around Lahore—the noise of traffic from buses and taxis to the loud voices of street vendors selling their wares. This enchanting city located in Northeast Pakistan had been home to her all of her life. In her shalwar qameez and dupatta, the traditional Pakistani outfit, she blended in with all the others returning home for the afternoon prayers.
Aafia had to laugh when she saw a Land Cruiser stuck behind a disagreeable donkey that was blissfully indifferent to the driver’s plight. Her city was certainly a place where traditional customs and modern cultures collided. She could see her house, which was located in the Garhi Shahu district, up ahead.
Her mother, her younger sister, Razia, and she would meet on the rooftop to pray. Her father and her older brother, Maahir, usually went to the Jamia Naimia Mosque in town. Women generally were not given access to the Pakistani mosques, because they weren’t allowed into the prayer rooms reserved for men.
Aafia was just finishing up her prayers. She turned to the right and said, “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah” (May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you). Then she turned to her left and repeated the greeting. For the first time in her young life, she wasn’t sure if she was praying to the right god.
“Come down and help with the Chicken Tikka, when you’re done praying,” her mother called to her. This was her favorite dish to eat. Small pieces of chicken, marinated with special spices, were put on skewers and baked over red-hot coals. Her sister, Razia, was already helping to make the green coriander and tamarind chutney, when she came down.
“How was school?” Razia asked.
“It was good,” she replied. “We spent extra time reciting the Quran today in class. We are also preparing for the Basant festival next month.”
She smiled when she thought of Maahir and her father flying their huge, handmade red, yellow, and black kite. The best part of the day was seeing the skies of Lahore filled with a profusion of colorful kites. The mayor would need to lift the ban on kite-flying imposed after a string of deaths during last year’s festival. During this two day spring celebration, Aafia’s part was to play the sitar while Razia played the tanpura.
Her longtime friend, Safia, had just given her a Bible today. Safia had already taught her many Christian songs. Aafia loved the concept of a personal God and felt joy when singing these melodies. However, she knew her strict parents would not approve of them.
Two weeks later, Aafia went to Safia’s church and heard the Gospel message. Affia immediately accepted Jesus. She became so excited about her new relationship with Jesus that she read her Bible and boldly praised God.
Her parents were furious when they learned of her recent conversion. They had already arranged her marriage to an older Muslim man. Sixteen-year-old Affia could not accept this proposal, so she ran away.
It had already been several weeks since she had left home, so she didn’t expect to be followed to church. She didn’t know who had informed her family of her whereabouts, but she did know that her moment of truth had come. The verse Matthew 16:25 came to mind, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (KJV).
When she saw the gun, she closed her eyes and waited.
Note: While this is a totally fictional story, I have tried to incorporate elements of real life martyrs' into the piece.
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