After traffickers transported a Druze refugee from Saudi Arabia to a European capital last year, they offered to drop him off at a hotel – but instead took him to an abandoned building and tied him up.
Khaled* said armed men already at the site tied him to a chair in a corner. Over the next two weeks they tortured him and recorded videos demanding his family pay 25,000 euros (US$28,900) for his release.
In the midst of this ordeal came an unexpected spiritual battle.
“My life started to be like fighting with the devil and fighting to find who is my God,” he said. “They forced me to pray like a Muslim – I knew the traditions of Islam, so I started praying to Allah by force and said, ‘Allah, help me! Where are you Allah? You are Allah, you are doing nothing. Who is Allah, why you make me suffer?’”
Muslims have long persecuted members of the Druze, a monotheistic but mixed basket of religions and philosophies dating back to 11th-century Western Asia. Khaled said that when the Saudi government forced him to leave the country, initially he had gone to Lebanon, where he met a Christian who told him, “When you have trouble, just ask Jesus to be your God.”
Khaled had asked the Christian not to talk about Jesus, but now he recalled what he told him as he suffered in captivity.
“I remembered how he would pray in the name of the Lord Jesus and then say, ‘Amen,’” Khaled said. “By that time in captivity, it was the Holy Spirit moving in me or standing beside me – He wanted to talk to me, and I was fighting within myself to accept or reject it.”
Light in a Dark Moment
As the deadline to pay the ransom passed, his captors fought about what to do with him – break his legs, or take him to Turkey, or kill him and sell his organs, he said.
While they were arguing and distracted, Khaled poured out his heart to Christ and wept. The moment he said, “Amen,” he felt he was on a new path. He also felt his legs and hands coming free of the ties binding them, he said.
“I start to cry,” he said, “and I told Him, ‘Now I will believe. You are my God. You are my everything. I just really need You to send me out and make me free.’”
Continuing to call on “Jesus, Yeshua,” under his breath, he made it out a door and felt the Lord carrying him over a nine-foot high wall on the building’s perimeter, he said. Once on the other side, Khaled said, he heard the Lord saying, “You are free.” As he ran three hours trying to find a police station, he shouted Jesus’ name in Hebrew, “Yeshua!”
After two months under police protection while authorities investigated, Khaled went to the office of a local Christian ministry that provided him food, legal help and the gospel.
“All of them held me like a family, and they supported me and let me know who the Lord Jesus really is,” Khaled said. “And now I can say I will be with the Lord all my life. Anywhere I go, I say, ‘Find God, because God is love.’”
Khaled now works as an Arabic interpreter for the ministry, which not only meets refugees’ immediate needs for food, infant supplies and psychological/spiritual counseling but helps arrange schooling for children and appointments to obtain legal status.
Local missionaries believe Europe is facing a new refugee crisis as many people fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are added to the number of those escaping areas of conflict in Africa and the Middle East.
“Many of the refugees that we work with are persecuted believers,” the leader of the ministry based in Europe said. “Some have come to know the Lord in their home country and, for various reasons but mainly for persecution, have been forced to flee. Others, despite being in a free ‘Christian’ country, have been very persecuted even in their new homes, the camps, or from other family members.”
With a holistic approach that addresses, physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs, workers find refugees are able to recover and thrive, supporting themselves in their new lives. Local missionaries there and in other European countries see an unprecedented opportunity to share the gospel with Muslims who were once inaccessible.
“While our work is not specifically tailored to reaching specific ethnic groups, all of our beneficiaries are coming from predominantly-Muslim countries in the 10/40 window, where it is extremely difficult and/or illegal to share the gospel,” the leader said. “Our pastoral and leadership teams receive daily text messages and phone calls from people who want to hear about God’s Word.”
Please consider a donation today to equip local missionaries in Europe to keep pace with refugees’ physical and spiritual needs.
*Name changed for security reasons