Her name was Qamar Zia and she was born into an Islamic family on 14 December 1929, in British India. At the age of 17 she attended a Christian school where one teacher’s faith so deeply affected her that she was moved to read the Bible with great earnest. Inspired by the book of Isaiah, she converted to Christianity.
In 1947, Zia’s family migrated to Pakistan. There she continued to study the Bible in secret. Seven years later, she ran away, fearing that her family would force her into marriage.
She took a job at an orphanage in Laugesen, Karachi and changed her name to Esther John. In June 1955, she moved to Sahiwal where she lived and worked in a mission hospital.
For three years she trained to be a teacher at the United Bible Training Centre in Gujranwala and then spent the rest of her life evangelizing in the villages around Chichawatni. She taught women to read and worked with them in the cotton fields.
On February 2, 1960 Esther was found murdered on her bed at her home in Chichawatni. She was buried at the Christian cemetery at Sahiwal. A memorial chapel was built in front of the nurses’ home in the grounds of the hospital there.
In 1998, Esther John was among the ten statues of 20th century Christian martyrs unveiled above the great west door of Westminster Abbey in London. She stood among other notable figures such as Archbishop Óscar Romero, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident.
Like the eunuch in Acts 8:26-39, Esther John’s life was changed by the words written by the prophet Isaiah. This led to a life of evangelism. She was a phenomenal woman and will be remembered for her devotion to her faith and her work in the community where she once lived.