(April 19, 2018) Mark Ellis reports…
Charged with being a spy, Czech missionary Petr Jasek endured a 14-month imprisonment in Sudan where he was tortured by fellow cellmates. But Jesus supernaturally imparted peace during his confinement and he became a bold witness, winning many to Christ.
In his role as the Africa regional director for Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Jasek went to Sudan to document the persecution of Christians, which was happening in the Nubah Mountains in clashes between the government and rebels.
Imprisoned in a tiny cell
Jasek was detained by the Sudanese police at Khartoum Airport in December 2015. Seems immigration staff found a duplicate passport he carried for security purposes, which led to his immediate arrest and imprisonment.
‘I was put in a cell at about 1:30 am,’ he told VOM. ‘It overcrowded, with people covering the floor. They had to squeeze around a little bit so they would create some small room for me to lie down on the floor. The conditions were sparse. I had no blanket… just two extra T-shirts, an extra pair of pants, toothbrush, toothpaste and soap; that was all.’
Guards had refused him blankets or a mattress. Because he was from the Czech Republic they told him they thought he should be used to cold weather.
At 5:30 am he was awakened by the Islamic call for prayer. All six of his cellmates began praying fervently. ‘They showed me a place behind them where I was supposed to stand while they were praying. The rule is that me as a Christian, I had to stay behind them so they would not look at me while they are praying.’ After the prayers, they identified themselves as DAESH, the Arabic acronym for ISIS. All his cellmates were ISIS fighters!
‘Two days later they started to openly torture and beat me… I was hit with their fists in my face many times. They called me “filthy pig” or “filthy rat”.’
One of the ISIS fighters barked an order: ‘Filthy pig, come here.’ When Jasek decided at first not to respond to these rude names he got hit with a wooden stick they had unscrewed from the floor sweeper. He was hit on the head, shoulders and fingers, or kicked him in the stomach and back with their boots.
‘At that time I was really thinking about the Lord Jesus what he had to go through when he was arrested. To me they also were beating him and ridiculing him!’ He told VOM. ‘I became like their slave. I was made to wash their clothes, all the dishes and clean the toilet with my bare hands. They were just making fun of me. I did not resist. I could clearly see the Lord Jesus and how he suffered for us.’
Amazing peace from Jesus
Then Jesus imparted something to Jasek that was amazing and unexpected, considering the circumstances. ‘I received a wonderful peace at that time and surprisingly, when I was physically attacked, I was experiencing the greatest peace ever in prison time… all those 14-1/2 months.’he says.
‘I could even pray during these beatings for my family members, I could pray for other fellow prisoners because I had this peace from the Lord at this time of the physical attacks on my body.’
When Jasek began to exalt and glorify the Lord’s name during his beatings, this made them even more furious. ‘They decided to torture me even in a much worse way. Eventually, they decided to do waterboarding to me. It’s a way of torture where a person lays on his back and they cover his mouth and pour water, which gives you the feeling that you are getting drowned.’
The Sudanese guards had not intervened to stop Jasek’s torture, because they were intimidated by the ISIS fighters. ‘It is [thought] that if these Islamists get released they will get revenge on those guards.’
Meditating on memorised scriptures
Jasek didn’t have access to a Bible during his captivity, so he meditated on scriptures he had memorised as a young person.
‘I was asking the Lord that he would keep me sound and that I wouldn’t lose my mind through the situation,’ Jasek told VOM. ‘The Holy Spirit kept reminding me some of the verses that I had memorised. This was just enough for me, to give me enough strength every day to pray.’
He also thought about Jesus’ teaching about loving enemies… and was startled when he heard his abusers weeping late at night when they could not sleep.
‘They were crying. They were also missing their family members. They were also crying to God for help,’ he recounted. ‘That allowed me to easily continue to pray for them. I was praying for those fellow prisoners, the interrogators, for the guards, for the prosecutors and for the judge, that the Lord would reveal himself as the Lord, Saviour and God.’
Remarkably, one of the guards intervened to prevent the waterboarding. Jasek said he felt the Lord used the guard to move him out of the cell.
Sharing the gospel
‘Later on I told the guard that he saved my life and we became close friends,’ Jasek said. ‘I gave him my email address and started to share the gospel. He was very passionate. I told him that if he ever made it to Europe, he could stay at my house and we would take care of him.’
Then Jasek was moved to another prison where conditions were even worse. ‘We were squeezed in a small room – 15 by 18 feet. There were sometimes 40 of us. I was able to lead 40 Eritrean refugees to Christ,’ he said. ‘It was like new revelation for me. I started to be courageous and openly shared the gospel with other fellow prisoners. Later on that resulted in them putting me in solitary confinement.’
Shortly after being placed in solitary confinement, Czech consular officers were able to bring him a Bible. ‘I didn’t have anything else to do but read it! Although only when there was enough light, which was about 8 am until 4:30 pm. I had to stand reading on the bars so that I could have enough light. I was so hungry for scripture. I read from Genesis to Revelation within three weeks.’
He noted that he gained a profound ‘new understanding of scripture.’
Holding worship services and preaching in prison
Jasek was eventually removed from solitary confinement to a larger prison that can hold about 10,000 people. ‘I went from solitary to a cell where there were 100 people,’ he explained. ‘We were squeezed tight. Only 75 could have a bed and 25 had to stay on the floor.’
Amazingly, guards at the new prison allowed him and two incarcerated Sudanese pastors to hold worship services.
Petr behind bars with other Christian prisoners
‘The first day I came to the chapel to spend time in scripture with the Lord, they asked me to preach! I would preach once a week, sometimes twice a week,’ Jasek said. ‘Of course, they were monitoring us and were reporting what we were teaching about. The two pastors from Sudan and I knew that nothing worse could happen to us.’
Preaching in prison allowed Jasek and the other pastors to witness to ‘people that were hopeless,’ Jasek said. ‘They were real criminals – murderers, rapists, thieves, drug dealers. It was such a wonderful time. They responded to our teaching. We were just teaching the gospel. It was so wonderful to see the changed life of those who dedicated their lives to Christ.’
In February 2017, Petr Jasek was granted a presidential pardon and Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir ordered his immediate release. He returned to the Czech Republic on February 26.
Bible study prayer leads to release!
During the time Jasek was interrogated by the jihadis in prison his wife was in a Bible study back home and the leader stopped the study to pray for the ‘situation that Petr is right now in.’
‘They stopped reading and started to pray for the Lord’s presence over the situation,’ the missionary said. ‘Later, when I came home, I realised that was exactly the time when I was on my knees before the Islamists and they were beating me. But I was experiencing a supernatural peace.’
‘I came for four days to Sudan… but I was there 445 days!’ Jasek told VOM. ‘When you think about all the hardships and seeing what the Lord was able to do through us, then what else can we say but the Lord’s ways are much better than our ways.’
Petr Jasek in Africa (VOM)
‘We know from the words of the apostle Paul that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. I felt like I received my life back. I was first threatened to be sentenced to be executed. [Then] later on, life imprisonment. Then, my life was returned back to me. I told the Lord, “My life does not belong to me anymore. It belongs to the Lord”.’
Mark Ellis is a seasoned senior correspondent ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net) and founder of the acclaimed www.GodReports.com a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world.
To learn more about Voice of the Martyrs go here