Pastor Jamal led 28 Muslims to Christ during his time in an Iraqi prison before being granted an unprecedented presidential pardon, revealed Dr. Terry Law, founder and president of World Compassion Terry Law Ministries.
"I was so emotional, when I got the phone call, I couldn't believe my ears," Law said in a phone interview with The Christian Post on Monday, recalling the day he found out that his good friend, Iraqi Christian Abdi Ali Hamzah, also known as Pastor Jamal, was to be released from prison.
"It had never happened before. No one had ever tested that part of their constitution. It was the first granting of a pardon to a Muslim who had converted to Christianity, and was converting other Muslims to Christianity – it was unheard of."
Jamal was arrested in July 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison in Iraq, supposedly for working as a spy for Iran. Law argues, however, that the pastor was helping him distribute $100,000-worth of food to people in Iraq, risking his life as he went undercover in refugee villages. He says that Jamal's arrest had more to do with the pastor's conversion from Islam to Christianity, something that goes strongly against the Muslim faith.
"He was held without charge for 14 months. During that time period, I tried desperately to get him out of jail. We did a food delivery with him to refugee camps back in 2010 and he worked with us and we found out after we left Northern Kurdistan that he had been imprisoned," Law told CP.
A big concern was the pastor's serious medical condition, including a tumor, which World Compassion warned numerous times would prove deadly if he did not receive better medical attention.
"When we went to the prison, the warden called for him to come from his cell, and when he walked in, he was overwhelmed first of all at the sight of us," Law said of a visit to the pastor.
"I could tell Jamal was in huge pain. He sank to the floor on his knees holding his head with violent headaches. We thought he was dying," he added, sharing that at the time, fears were that the pastor was showing symptoms of a cancerous condition he had been treated for in 2008.
During his ordeal, Jamal revealed that he had led 26 Muslim prisoners to faith in Jesus Christ, which Law described as an "amazing account" that left him overwhelmed.
Eventually, with the help of U.S. Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Law was granted a meeting with Karim Sanjari, Minister of Interior for the Kurdish region. At first, Sanjari said that Jamal had been tried by Kurdish judges, and so there was no way to get him out of prison despite his condition.
The World Compassion Ministries founder refused to give up hope, however, and told Sanjari: "Do you want this man to die in a Kurdish prison? Because I have the power to tell the world about him. It's a much more positive thing for you to release him from prison because he appears to be dying. I will say everything good I can say in the West about Kurdistan and your legal system."
At that, the Kurdish Minister of Interior said that he would try to see if he could get a presidential pardon for Jamal, an endeavor that ultimately proved successful when Jamal was finally released from prison after 21 months, and reunited with his family.
"It was through the gracious and courageous act by President Masoud Barzani from the Kurdish Regional Government, that Pastor Jamal was granted private amnesty and released from prison," World Compassion reported at the time. "It should also be recognized Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Minister of the Interior Karim Sinjari played critical roles in helping encourage his release."
In the same interview, Law also discussed World Compassion's work with Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan region, sharing what the people are saying about the current crisis situation.