A CZECH charity worker who spent 445 days in a Sudanese jail, charged with crimes carrying the death penalty, has been touring churches in the UK, describing how his sentence was a time of “personal healing” and Christian witness.
Petr Jasek was arrested at the airport on his way out of Sudan in 2015, after a visit to learn more about the persecuted Church. As Africa regional director for Voice of the Martyrs, he had visited the country more than a dozen times, conducting meetings carefully, in busy restaurants or at night. But he was charged with spying, conspiracy, photographing military areas, and inciting violence against the state. Two of the charges carried the death penalty.
A Sudanese pastor, the Revd Hassan Abduraheem, and a Sudanese man, Abdulmonem Abdumawla, were each sentenced to 12 years after being found guilty of multiple charges, including espionage (News, 3 February 2017). Eight months passed before a six-month court case began. After diplomatic intervention, Mr Jasek was granted a presidential pardon within one month of the start of a life sentence; the Sudanese men were released after three months.
Last week, Mr Jasek described the brutality of his imprisonment, during which he shared a crowded cell with “sympathisers and supporters of ISIS”, who insulted him, forced him to clean the toilet with his bare hands, and physically attacked him. They also asked him questions, and he tried to “show Christ’s love and Christian witness to them”. He lost 25 kilos in two months, went on hunger strike when denied access to his family or the embassy, and was eventually diagnosed with anaemia in hospital.
Although at one point he was “literally wondering whether I would be able to come out with a sound mind”, he found that “the Lord gave me this wonderful peace inside, even though I was going through a very difficult time.”
Despite being threatened with waterboarding and being beaten with a wooden stick, within a few months he stopped praying for release, and “realised that the Lord had a different plan for me”. Sharing a room with Eritrean refugees, he felt prompted to “share Christ with them”, and several prayed with him before being transferred to another prison the next day.
After being permitted a Czech Bible, he read daily during daylight hours, and, on one occasion, was invited to preach at a small chapel. It was, he said, “a time of personal healing”. He continues to pray for Muslim cell-mates, with whom he shared his faith, many of whom were “very close” to sharing it, he says.
On tour at churches last week, he encouraged Christians to pray for the persecuted Church, including prisoners who are “Christ’s ambassadors in chains”, and for “heavenly peace” for their family members.
The 2018 report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports that, last year, government officials in Sudan continued to arrest church leaders, harass members, and destroy or confiscate church properties. “Individuals affiliated with several Evangelical congregations were arrested, fined, and evicted from their homes — and one was killed — for opposing government efforts to take over their leadership and confiscate their properties.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury met the President, Omar al-Bashir, last year (News, 4 August 2017).