Czech missionary Petr Jasek admits there was a time he doubted if he would survive his over year-long imprisonment under Sudan’s Islamic regime from December 2015 to February 2017.
After spending months locked away in a cell with six members of the Islamic State, taking beating after beating and enduring torture as he lost over 55 pounds, the 52-year-old Jasek was later transferred into solitary confinement and then into overcrowded cells with no access to toilets. He was given only tasteless beans with moldy bread to eat.
Spending his first five months mostly with Islamic extremists and no access whatsoever to Scripture, Jasek told The Christian Post in a recent interview that he prayed and hoped to be released as soon as possible because he had not yet seen what God’s purpose was for his unjust prison detention.
But things turned around when he was finally granted access to a Bible and locked away for three months in solitary confinement with nothing to do but read God’s Word. Looking back on his time in prison, Jasek said God's ultimate assignment for him was preaching the Gospel to spiritually hungry prisoners in Sudan.
“[There] was a moment I was doubting whether I would survive,” he explained. “Then one night, there were 12 Eritrean refugees brought to our cell. They were teenagers.”
“I was encouraged to preach the Gospel to them. I went there and shared Christ with them. They were deeply touched. In the end, when I saw that their hearts were prepared, I asked them if they wanted to commit their lives to Jesus. So these 12 Eritrean refugees prayed with me that night because we could not sleep. There was no space to sleep. We spent the rest of the night talking about Jesus. In the morning, they were all transferred to a different prison and I could not see them anymore.”
Jasek said that interaction with the refugees “was a turning point” for him during his detention.
Jasek, a leader who works the international persecution nonprofit Voice of the Martyrs, details his life in Imprisoned with ISIS: Faith In the Face of Evil.
In his new book, he talks about growing up under communism in Czechoslovakia and how a four-day trip to document how churches in Sudan were being persecuted by the government, turned into a months-long journey that took him through five different prisons.
“When you think about the fact that my plan was to go for four days but the Lord has turned these four days into 445 days, that goes well in hand with Isaiah 55. I think it is verse eight through 10 that says that ‘My ways are not like your ways. My thoughts are not like your own,’” Jasek said.
“That is the wonderful thing that when we can trust the Lord and He can use us according to His purpose. I know that the Lord Jesus was preparing His followers that they will be persecuted. He doesn’t guarantee that He will deliver us from persecution.”
'Imprisoned with ISIS'
Jasek was arrested in December 2015 while at the airport set to fly home after filming persecution against Christian communities, specifically church properties being confiscated or destroyed by authorities.
He said he was arrested by the secret police who took all his belongings, including his camera and cell phone. He was taken to a local police headquarters and interrogated for 24 hours. After that, authorities placed him in the first of five prisons he would eventually be held in throughout his 14-month ordeal.
He was interrogated by the secret police for four months before being brought before a judge to hear the crimes lodged against him. Two of the charges — espionage and trying to overthrow the regime — could be punishable by death. Eventually, after months of prosecution, Jasek was sentenced to life in prison.
In the first prison, Jasek said he was forced to share a cell with six members of the Islamic State for two months. At the time, the Islamic State was making international headlines by way of its violence and controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. The group recruited militants throughout Africa.
According to Jasek, the Islamic State-aligned militants were “highly educated doctors, pharmacists and IT specialists from various countries.”
“When ISIS was succeeding in Iraq and Syria, it inspired many young people,” he said. “These young ISIS members were all the age of my own children. The time with those people was not easy. They first limited my freedom of movement. I was not supposed to speak when not asked. They started slandering me with bad words and beatings and tortures followed.”
One of the Islamic State members, whom others referred to as the “man of the sword,” was purported to have been a personal bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and also a militant who beheaded one of the 21 Christians decapitated on a Libyan beach in the widely publicized social media video that rocked the world in February 2015, Jasek said.
“He was one of the people who were slaughtering the 20 Coptic Christians and one African Christian on the Libyan shore,” Jasek said. “He was threatening me with my life as well. But the Lord protected me and the Lord gave me the strength to even share the Gospel through my answers.”
But without access to Scripture or even a mattress to sleep on, he grew concerned about his mental health.