The terrorist-turned-jailer, a man who once served Osama Bin Laden and appeared in a video where ISIS soldiers executed 20 Egyptians, pulled a fishing-line garrote out of his pocket to show Petr Jasek how he easily could kill a man. It was an efficient scare tactic, and he told Petr he would kill him if he was American or Russian.
Petr was Czech, so he narrowly avoided death — that time.
It was 2015, and Petr had landed in a Sudanese prison while on a mission trip. He shot an innocent video, but the Sudanese government claimed it was espionage. They threw him in prison for more than 400 days, confined with ISIS soldiers who hated him as much as they hated the Sudanese government.
He was sentenced to life in prison and expected to die in Sudan, away from his family.
The First Jasek Arrest
Petr grew up in a Christian family in then-Communist Czechoslovakia. His father was a pastor for an underground church, but the family faced constant monitoring and persecution for their faith. The secret police arrested his parents and interrogated them, but they continued their work when they returned home.
Petr’s faith grew as he got older, and in 2015 he went on a mission trip to Northern Sudan to help persecuted Christians.
“I always say that my heart is with the persecuted brothers and sisters,” Petr said. “I am ready to go anywhere the Lord leads me, because whenever He opens the door, no one can close.”
Petr wasn’t exactly surprised when airport security detained him on his way home.
Two years earlier, he had a dream he was imprisoned. He remembers the day — May 19, 2013 — and the sound of the door slamming behind him in his dream. After he was arrested in real life and interrogated for 24 hours straight, he heard the same sound from his dream as the door to the jail closed behind him.
“I started to think that the Lord had shown me this is what was supposed to come later in my life,” Petr said.
He was convicted, sentenced and started serving out his sentence in a Muslim-run prison.
Petr was chained from the beginning, shackled down with the worst criminals in the country. His jailers took him to a cell occupied by so many men, they had to squeeze together to create space on the floor for him.
“There was only one bed that was already occupied by the oldest serving prisoner in the cell,” Petr said. “They just made a little space on the floor. I had no blanket; I only had a few pieces of clothes, like two extra T-shirts and one extra pants and a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. That was all. They showed me the small space on the floor and said, ‘Just lay down here.’ One of the guys, he spoke some English, said, “Lay down here and cover with your other T-shirts.”
Sudanese secret police refused to let Petr contact his family at the beginning of his sentence, so he went on a hunger strike. He struggled, weak from not eating. He occupied himself by trying to remember all the Bible passages he learned as a child.
“The Holy Spirit kept revealing me passages from Scripture that gave me strength and hope for every day of every week,” Petr said.
Petr was locked in a group cell with members of ISIS, who eventually started calling him the “filthy pig.” They limited the places he could go within the cell, making sure he didn’t get near them as they prayed. He was beat up, punched and kicked, and once he was even waterboarded.
“When they called me and said, ‘Filthy pig, come here,’ I decided at first I would not respond to these rude names, and when I did not respond, I got hit with a wooden stick they unscrewed from the sweeper that was there to clean the floor,” Petr said. “Whenever I did not respond immediately to these new names, ‘filthy pig’ or ‘filthy rat,’ they immediately hit me, either on my head, my shoulders or my fingers, or they kicked me into my stomach with this rod.”
Many would crumble under circumstances like this, giving up on hope and life. But Petr took a different approach.
“At that time, I was really thinking about the Lord Jesus, what He had to go through when He was arrested, and they also were beating Him with wooden stick and were ridiculing Him, slapping Him,” Petr said. “I could clearly see the Lord Jesus and how He suffered for us.”
There were moments of encouragement, like the times he could hear Sudanese women singing hymns near the prison, but they were few and far between.
Turning the Other Cheek
Petr wasn’t allowed to start a conversation with the other inmates, so he had to share his faith the only way he could think of.
“When they beat me on one cheek, I was literally turning the other cheek; but I can honestly tell you that it was not me, it was Christ in me who was able to do that,” Petr said.
For four months, Petr only prayed for his release. He just wanted to be back home. Then, in a paradigm shift of biblical proportions, Petr began to look at the prison as a new mission field.
“There came a joyful morning when I was able to pray, not only for my family, but also to pray for my fellow prisoners,” Petr said. “… I stopped praying to be released. We knew the Lord would open our prison cell one day. We were so excited from the fact that we were able to preach the Gospel to the hopeless people in prison.”
Over time, Petr began speaking openly about his faith, sharing the Gospel with Eritrean prisoners who had been moved to his cell. He eventually was allowed to use an empty cell as a chapel when Muslim prisoners went to the mosque inside the prison.
“I was preaching to absolutely hopeless, desperate and forgotten people, and they were responding positively to the Gospel,” Petr said. “The number of attendees grew from about 20 at the beginning to more than 200 in six months.”
After 445 days, Petr was released, and his sentence was overturned. Even though he was tortured, beaten and starved, he claims the last six months of his imprisonment were the best of his life.
Petr will speak at a free virtual conference for Voice of the Martyrs. You can check that out here.
Image via Unsplash.