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Book

The Costly Call

Paperback: 158 pages
Kregel Publications
ISBN: 0825435552

 
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book excerpt

The Costly Call

By Emir Fethi Caner and H. Edward Pruitt

CBN.com – The most powerful stories of the twenty-first century are those that we have yet to hear. They are the untold tales of the heroes of the Chrsitian faith, those rejected, tortured, and killed because of the One they have chosen to follow. Their true stories are collected in the book, The Costly Call, by Emir Fethi Caner and H. Edward Pruitt. In the excerpt below, read about Abul, a former Muslim who was arrested and tortured after he became a Christian. His story is one of incredible faith and perseverance.

The Marks on His Back: The Story of Abul (Bangladesh)

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. — Isaiah 53:5

Compared to the average citizen of Bangladesh, I was quite blessed. Each morning I left my comfortable three-bedroom flat, got into my plush four-door sedan, and drove downtown to a beautifully decorated office. I was accustomed to having the finer things in life, including the influence as a politician to make decisions that affected millions in Dhaka. Indeed, I treated my wife, Rosnita, as my first lady. She decorated our home with fine linens and draperies and shopped only in places patronized by the upper level of society. Her housekeeper bought the groceries and prepared the meals for the family.

Life was good in my world, but things were about to change. I was about to exchange my marks of success for marks on my back.

Although the constitution of Bangladesh promises freedom of religion, cases of government persecution of non-Islamic faiths are well documented and increasing in intensity. While serving in a local governmental position in Bangladesh, I, in fact, watched as a Bengali man, Abraham, was sentenced to death. Abraham had denounced Islam and accepted Christ as his Savior, a crime worthy of execution according to the tenets of Islam (surah 5:33; hadith 9.57).

Intrigued by the man’s humility and love for Christ, I visited Abraham in his prison cell two days prior to his execution. Steadfast in his newfound faith, Abraham refused to recant his beliefs and continued to be at peace about his approaching death. I asked him, “Why do you not simply denounce this Jesus Christ?”

Abraham’s reply shocked me: “I cannot denounce Christ because He would never denounce me.”

Concerned for Abraham, I again urged him, “Believe what you will, but say that Christ is not God. Save your life!”

In a meek, low whisper Abraham replied, “I would not commit a lie against any man. I can never commit a lie against the Son of God who gave His life for me. He gave His life for me. I count it joy to die for Him.”

I wept as Abraham shared his faith with me, a devout Muslim. Two days later the council gave Abraham one more chance to renounce Christ, but he refused. For his defiance, he was scourged with chains; one of the chains ultimately wrapped around his head, crushing his skull. Abraham never fought back. Instead, he prayed to Jesus, asking for the strength to persevere. He seemed not even to feel the pain. He was at total peace. Watching in utter amazement, I knew at that very moment that I must seek out this Christ that Abraham knew.

Yet I remained steadfast in my own faith. If anything, the dramatic execution caused me to practice Islam ever more devoutly because I desired to seek more earnestly the wisdom of God in my own life. Hence, I spent much of my time in prayer, the lifeline of the Muslim faith.

One day, a few months after my encounter with Abraham, I again met someone who was to have a profound impact on my spiritual pilgrimage. While walking down the steps of the mosque after Friday (Jumma) prayers, I was approached by a man seeking directions. Stuart appeared awkward and uncomfortable with the culture and his clothing identified him as a Westerner. I was curious as to why this man was in Dhaka. As did many other Muslims, I assumed that any Westerner who visited a predominantly Muslim country was there to spread the gospel of Christianity. So I asked the man, “Are you a missionary?”

Stuart boldly replied, “No, I am not, but I am a Christian.”

Stuart and I became friends and were able to share with each other the differences between our philosophies and beliefs. Our honest and open discussions led both of us to be more curious about the other’s religion. We even started studying the Bible and the Qur'an together, quickly identifying the stark contrast between the two sacred texts. One presented Jesus as the son of Mary, a messenger and servant of Allah (surah 5:75). The other described Jesus as the Son of God who is the Savior of the world (John 1:29). The former denied the crucifixion of Christ (surah 4:157) while the other based all meaning in life upon the death and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12–14). It was undeniable that only one of the sacred texts could actually be divine in its origin and correct in its suppositions.

In the wake of my studies, I began questioning the veracity of my own faith. One night, after careful study of the Bible, I was unable to sleep, wrestling with the question of the person of Christ. While I wanted desperately to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, as the Bible stated (Matthew 16:13–18), Islamic tradition and upbringing made such a change in perception almost unthinkable. After all, I was a good Muslim. I prayed to Allah daily and adhered faithfully to the teachings of Islam. I regularly gave alms to the poor, observed Ramadan, and planned to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) one day soon. Suddenly I found myself torn between my traditional Islamic practices, which I no longer believed, and my personal conclusion that Christ is Lord.

I continued to struggle between what I determined to be true and my faith of old. In the midst of the turmoil, Jesus suddenly appeared to me in a dream. Both compassionate and confrontational, Christ told me of His love but added that the time had come for me to commit to Allah or to Him. “It is time for the turmoil to end. In whom will you trust?” this dream of Jesus asked.

Awakened by this powerful dream, I answered, “You, You, I trust. Jesus, I trust You.” I found peace at last.

I enjoyed my newfound faith for four years without much controversy. In the beginning, I shared my faith in Christ with others in private, but I feared that I could never do so publicly. I had seen a man beaten to death with a chain for being a Christian.

My faith could not long remain separate, however, from my everyday life. In my work, I occasionally enforced policies that did not agree with my Christian values. This deeply troubled my soul.

* * *

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

It was not long before my superiors confronted me concerning my Christian beliefs and demanded that I denounce such foolishness or resign my position. Like so many before me, I refused to give up my faith in Christ and was discharged immediately. Stripped of my power and prestige, I quickly packed up my personal belongings and, for the first time in a very long while, rode a bus home. After such a discouraging day, I longed to be with my wife. Yet one block from my home, I was met by two policemen who grabbed me by my arms, threw me into a police car, and carried me off to the station. After being interrogated for six hours, I was escorted to a holding cell where I was left for twenty-one days. I was not allowed to call or see anyone. Rosnita had no idea where I had been taken.

This was just the beginning. Months of silence ensued, in which my wife could learn nothing of me. Rosnita could only call my work and ask if any new information had been received. After being diligent in trying to find me, she was ultimately met with stiff opposition and blatant lies. After nearly a year, my wife received word that I was in prison. While the authorities remained ambiguous about the charge, they were clear that it was serious enough to merit capital punishment. Rosnita was not allowed to see me and was told that my death was certain.

For four years, I remained imprisoned for the crime of heresy. I was repeatedly advised that Muslims do not convert from Islam. Twice each year I was granted a chance to reconsider my beliefs. I continued to maintain, “Jesus Christ is the true Son of God.” Frustrated, the prison guards beat me across my shoulders and upper back with a three-foot length of rusty chain. The Scripture passage “I can endure all things through Christ who strengthens me” became my closest friend.

Believing that they could eventually wear me down, the beatings became progressively severe. The first beating was twenty lashes. Six months later there was another beating of at least thirty lashes. I lost count when one of the lashes crossed my head from right to left, and ripped open my left ear. Every six months I was dragged from my dirty, rat-infested cell and given an opportunity to denounce Christ. Each time I refused to forsake my faith and was beaten more brutally than in previous attacks.

Despite being frustrated in their attempts to break me, the guards continued the biannual beatings. I also was enticed with food and promises of release in return for a confession of guilt. The only confession they received was that “Jesus is the living Son of God.”

Finally, on one occasion, tired of the futility of their attempts to reconvert me to Islam, the guards resolved to make the next beating much worse. Two men each held three chains. The chains were separated between their fingers. That caused each chain to make a separate mark. The pain became so intense that I lost consciousness after about fifty or sixty lashes. I woke up in a hospital in Dhaka three days after my beating. I thought I was dead until I saw my wife standing beside me. It was the first time I had seen her in over four years. I had fourteen broken bones and thirty-two lacerations that required stitches. But I was alive.

When I awoke in the hospital, there was no sign of the police. No one knew how I had arrived at the hospital. There was no record that I had been admitted. After three weeks of treatment, I was released without a word from the authorities.

Now in my fifties and no longer a government official, I began a new life without the privileges I had once taken for granted. In time, I found work at a fast-food restaurant. The authorities would have found it immensely satisfying that I—who once influenced government policy—now cleaned windows, mopped floors, and emptied trash for a living at a fast-food restaurant.

Rosnita, who also had enjoyed the better things in life, was forced to sell all her jewelry, furniture, and clothes. She also found employment washing dishes at a restaurant. Although her life had changed drastically with my decision to follow Christ, Rosnita had not yet allowed Christ to change her life. Neither did she reject me, while maintaining her faith in Allah and his prophet Muhammad. Yet the prolonged beatings that I endured ultimately had a lasting effect on my wife. She told me that she had gained a profound respect for me, even though everything that had happened to us occurred because I had left Islam. She seemed less bothered with my faith in Christ and more deeply moved by my ability to trust God in the midst of severe persecution.

As I grew in my understanding of God, I recognized that I was responsible to openly share my faith in Christ. Although risky, I spoke of Christ with dozens of my friends. As is normal in Islamic culture, many of my closest friends disowned me as an infidel and traitor to the faith (surah 3:85). Nine others surrendered their lives to Christ. Sensing the necessity of discipleship, I initiated a Bible study with the group of new believers.

New believers were not the only ones to attend the Bible studies. Rosnita regularly attended the meetings and carefully observed me. After listening to me teach from the Christian Scriptures one evening, Rosnita broke down crying and confessed, “I want what you have.” That night I led my wife to faith in Jesus Christ. Although astonished at the patience I had shown in persecution, she ultimately came to understand that it was by the scourging and sacrifice of Christ that she could find life. Through the death of the Son of God, eternal life could be hers.

I will never regret the path in life ordained for me. I may have lost valuable time in a prison cell, but I gained eternity. Although treated like a criminal by others, I am declared righteous in the eyes of God. Although I lost friends who consider me an infidel, I gained a wife who considers me a Christian hero. The pain I suffered was a small price to pay for a relationship with Christ, by whose stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).


Excerpted from The Costly Call by Emir Fethi Caner and H. Edward Pruitt, Copyright © 2005, published by Kregel Publications. Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

 

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