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Syria: Islamic State captive finds God moments before execution
09 February 2017
Being kidnapped by the so-called Islamic State (IS) is a worst-case scenario in the minds of many Middle Eastern Christians. But even here in the darkest valley, faced with pressure to deny Christ, potential torture or death, God walks alongside His people. People like Meghrik.*
As he stood in his own grave, moments away from execution, Meghrik earnestly prayed to God that He would deliver him. And He did...
Meghrik felt his brow prickle with sweat. Three IS fighters boarded the bus, which was packed with people of all ages fleeing the war-torn city of Aleppo. Carefully they made their way down the aisle, checking the identification papers of all of those on board.
Finally, the nearest IS fighter reached him. Worried, Meghrik handed over his papers.
"Are you a Christian?" came the question, short and sharp. "No," Meghrik answered. Yes, he had been raised a Christian in a Christian family and had a Christian family name. But Meghrik didn't believe in God anymore; he thought Christianity was ridiculous.
"You're lying. Your name says you're a Christian. Come with me."
Meghrik followed the IS fighter down the aisle as the other passengers stared at him, their faces showing horror mixed with fear. No one else spoke, or even moved.
"An infidel," said the commander outside, as he studied Meghrik's papers. "You cannot continue with this bus." Meghrik tried to defend himself, but the commander ordered him to close his mouth.
At the mercy of IS, Meghrik was taken to the militants' capital: Raqqa.
Into the grave
As evening fell that day, Meghrik's escort took him to an ordinary-looking house. Converted by IS into a makeshift courtroom, there Meghrik found himself being sat face-to-face with a 'judge'.
The judge looked again at the young man's ID. Convinced that he was a believer, he proclaimed his verdict: "You are sentenced to death."
"But I am not a Christian, I don't believe what my parents taught me," Meghrik responded in a whisper, consumed by astonishment and fear.
But the reply was simple: "This is the verdict."
For several hours Meghrik was held in the court's backroom before being blindfolded, bound and taken alongside the other condemned 'infidels' to the place of execution. Small pits punctured the ground in this open area of the city.
Horrified, Meghrik found himself looking into a grave as his blindfold was removed.
He was pushed into the hole where, unable to break his fall, he heard the sound of weapons being loaded. He couldn't think properly. Tears ran down his cheeks and he felt completely helpless - he was without hope.
In his darkest hour, he cried out to God from is heart: "If you exist, let me live. Please give me a chance to get to know you!"
A second chance
Seconds pass by. No shot. But a voice broke the tense silence.
"You can live and be free when you convert to Islam," called one of the men.
Seeing no other way out, Meghrik responded rapidly: "I will convert."
A second chance. Meghrik felt exhausted with relief. But new fears came the next day as IS soldiers marched him from his cell and took him to be interrogated. Accused of various crimes, he was beaten with a cable - he was struck with somewhere between 20 and 30 lashes that day.
Meghrik faced two more days of torture and threats that he would be executed, before finally being taken before another judge.
With little explanation, the judge declared: "You will be freed within some days."
Disbelieving, on the tenth day of his imprisonment Meghrik was freed. He bore with him a document that gave him the right to pass all IS checkpoints on his return home. There, he fell into the arms of his parents. He had changed.
Now he knows that the living God exists. Now he knows that God hears our prayers.
"It was an indescribable moment"
"Before the kidnap I was almost an atheist, even though I had been raised a Christian," says Meghrik "About a month before I was kidnapped, a friend of mine asked me what I thought about Jesus. He challenged me to pray and ask God to show that He exists. I did. I prayed to God: 'God, if You exist, would you show me that You exist.' After that, I more or less forgot about it.
"Until the moment they threw me into that hole to kill me. At that moment I felt regret and I prayed again. I said to God: 'If you exist, please give me a chance to get to know you.' When they didn't kill me at the last moment, my thoughts changed about God. I thought that God really heard my prayer at that moment.
"After that I was forced to convert to Islam. I did so, just to save my life. When they kept torturing me, I prayed again. 'God, you saved me the first time, so why do you let them torture me again? Please, Lord, get me out of here so that I can search for you and learn about you.' The days passed and the judge didn't sentence me. God changed the heart of the judge, he set me free.
"It was an indescribable moment when I finally left that place, a moment of happiness and a fulfilment of God's promises. He heard my prayers during my days in custody. I felt that this is the Bible in practice. The Bible, the book that I had been reading before, without really believing it.
"I had a Bible verse in mind that day: 'While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8) I remembered how I had defended (argued) to my friends that God didn't exist, that I had denied Jesus and was even ready to convert to Islam.
"But God didn't leave me or let me down, He stayed with me 'til the end to show me His existence."
*Name changed for security reasons
Source: Open Doors
- Thank God that when Meghrik cried out to God, he was saved from execution
- Thank God that now Meghrik has come to know Him, and that he knows God hears our prayers
- Praise God for His faithfulness, that He demonstrated His love for us by dying for us even while we were still sinners.
More News from Syria:
- Watch Pastor Edward on BBC Breakfast on Christmas Day
- 'All are welcome!' Join Syria's Christians in prayer this month
- Christmas in Tartus
- 'We are coming back'
- Pastor Alim's choice to face danger - living in Aleppo
Find out more about persecution in Syria.