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Sharing the gospel behind bars

Waseem, a Release partner in Pakistan, describes what happened when fellow worker Pastor Akbar was recently detained for six days by police for standing up for persecuted Christians.

Pastor Akbar is an evangelical pastor who has worked with me since 2004 as an assistant administrator in our office. He is a very bold Christian leader, strong in faith, with a passion to help persecuted believers.

One evening, when he was praying in his church, he heard a commotion in the street and decided to investigate. He discovered that several community leaders and many police were trying to take possession of a house belonging to two brothers, who were members of his own church.

Pastor Akbar told the police that he knew the owners, who had been living there for the past 20 years. He said: “How can you seize this property, worth more than two crore rupees (around £130,000)? This is discrimination against Christians.

After Akbar’s bold intervention, the police immediately stopped. One officer then spoke to him privately and invited him to go to the police station to discuss the matter further.

The pastor agreed – but later that evening he was arrested and accused of interfering in police matters. The next day he was taken to prison and placed in a small, crowded cell.

During this time he was mocked, humiliated and beaten.

“This was my first, and terrible, experience in prison and I realise it is an entirely different world,” he told me later.

Yet despite these hardships, Pastor Akbar also had a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus with over 100 prisoners.

Read below an extract from his diary:

MY TIME IN PRISON

Pastor Akbar shared the gospel with wonderful results…


Wednesday

This is the first time in my life I have been sent to prison. My only ‘crime’ was to help two of my church members whose property was being attacked by the police. Today I was mocked and beaten, after I told my fellow prisoners that I am a pastor and I have not done anything wrong.

The authorities moved me to another cell where there were already Christians. I told my story to my fellow prisoners straightaway, which was some help. Ten people were crowded into a tiny cell. It was a very cramped space; dirty, smelly and very unhygienic.

I started to talk with everyone. I found out that most of the prisoners were here for small crimes like pickpocketing, stealing, fighting and so on. I also discovered that some of the prisoners had actually completed their sentences – but had no one to help them secure their release.

In the evening I suggested we pray together, but we did not have a Bible. I recited some Psalms and sang a little, before praying for all the prisoners and even for the jail management. A guard was listening throughout and told his colleagues about our prayers for them.


Thursday

At 10 am we were taken to different parts of the prison to work. Everybody was assigned physical tasks. I was taken to the Superintendent who wanted to know more about me. After that  I was treated much better.


Sunday

I asked the Superintendent for permission to hold a Sunday service, which was granted. Some 80 per cent of the Christian prisoners were allowed to take part, around 160 prisoners.

We sang psalms and hymns, and I preached for about half an hour.  Some 22 prisoners repented and came to the Lord – what  a joyful day! Lastly I prayed for all prisoners, their families and for the jail management. The Christians were very happy, since this was the first time a Sunday service had been held in the jail.

I was so glad and realised that this was the reason why I was in prison. I believe it was God’s plan to send me to jail to be a witness for Christ – and for me to find out more about prison life by experiencing it.


Please pray for strength and protection for Release partner Waseem and his colleague Pastor Akbar. Praise God for the 22 prisoners who responded to the gospel message – pray for their ongoing discipleship and release in due course.

Our partner Waseem asks us to pray for the two brothers whose house was being targeted. This matter is now a case in the civil courts. Please pray for their protection and that they would receive justice.


Release partner Waseem also features in one of our Lockdown Church, Frontline video reports. Watch his report on the effect of coronavirus in Pakistan here.


PAKISTAN

Population: 208 million

Capital: Islamabad

Government: Federal parliamentary republic

Religion: Muslim 95.8%, Christian 2.5%, Other 1.7%

Sources: Operation World, World Factbook


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