From persecutor to persecuted


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From I am N: Inspiring stories of Christians facing Islamic extremists
Voice of the Martyrs

From Persecutor to Persecuted

Abdulmasi, Nigeria

After bombing a church, Abdulmasi liked to return to relish his work, to learn the body count, to bask in the glory of killing Christians. This was, after all, a major focus of the fanatical group, Jama’atu Nasril Islam, in which he participated. Decades ago, his comrades began calling him, Mr. Insecticide. He earned this nickname, because, as he explained, “the only one who could organize the killing of insects, the killing of Christians. When you were looking for someone to get rid of insects, then call me. This was my life.”

Whenever Muslims in Nigeria felt Christians were encroaching, they would call him. He specialized in car bombs, riot planning, and infiltrating Christian organizations, the last of which would prove to be his undoing. Or, from a Biblical perspective, his redemption. Abdulmasi had known no other life than absolute adherence to Islam. At age 5, his family forced him into Almajiranci, an antiquated Islamic practice popular in West Africa. Muslim families send their young sons away, to a local imam. A boy doing almajiranci, might join 40 or 50 other boys in the imam’s instruction. Their days are as rigid as those of prisoners. In the morning, the boys recite the Quran in Arabic, a language they do not understand. They recite it for hours, literally for years, until they memorize the Quran. The task is not unlike an English speaking child, memorizing the Bible in Chinese. At mid day, the boys walk the streets and beg for food, which they share first with the imam. Afterward, they might study the Hadith, a collection of sayings ascribed to the prophet Muhammed, written by Islamic scholars written in the ninth century.

In fundamentalist Islamic sectors around the world, the Hadith is the source from which young boys learn the concept of jihad, paradise, and killing enemies of Allah. Having lived on a steady diet of this for a decade, Abdulmasi said, “Islam is a teaching of hatred, hatred and nothing more than hatred. And, if there is any evil in society, they will relate it as a result of Christians.” His only solace in this life, a promise of paradise, if he would kill enemies of Allah. At age 17, wanting desperately to escape a life he hated, Abdulmasi became involved in his first jihad against Christians, in the city of Bauchi, Nigeria. The jihadists did not touch women or children, but they did beat and slash men. During this attack, Abdulmasi spotted a man known to be a Christian, coming out of his home. “I began beating his legs, so he couldn’t run away,” recalled Abdulmasi. “He fell down, and my boys attacked him, trying to kill him. A seven year old boy was the one who slaughtered the man with a knife. Pressing down on his neck, he cut the man. We called the boy, Chief Slaughterer.” After the killing, Abdulmasi rejoiced. “You see, when you do this, when you kill a mosquito,” he said, clapping his hands together, “you achieve something. You smile, even though you see blood on your hands. I have gotten rid of the enemy of God, my enemy too.”

Years passed. The killings continued. One day, Abdulmasi returned to a church he had just bombed, only to find something odd happening. Church members who had survived the attack, were singing songs. This infuriated Abdulmasi. When he returned to the mosque, he lamented what he had seen. “They are rejoicing!”, he huffed. “They are happier! Why couldn’t I rid these mosquitoes from the church?”, he wondered. In frustration, he decided to use a new tactic. He would infiltrate the church as an impostor, and look for ways to kill Jesus followers. The next day, he went to the church and told the pastor, “I am a Muslim, but I want to become a Christian.” The pastor and his congregation eagerly embraced him. “The love I was shown,” he later said, “surprised me.” He began attending services regularly. He attended the young adult group, went to baptism class, and was baptized. All the while, he was secretly returning to the mosque, to pray and fast. For six years, Abdulmasi lived this double life. He’d bomb a church one day, and lead a Bible study the next.

He was even appointed the young adult leader. But when the church planned a conference, and invited a prominent pastor to talk, Abdulmasi was furious. “Why not me? Am I not the young adult leader? Why wasn’t I asked to speak?” He attended the conference, anger churning inside. He secretly prayed that the speaker would fail, and that he would be asked to take over. But God had a different plan for Abdulmasi. During the last day of the conference, the pastor spoke on 1 Kings 18, Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal.

“How long are you going to waver between two opinions?”, the pastor thundered. “If God is God, worship him. If Baal is God, worship him.” Abdulmai perked up. “Who are you deceiving?”, the pastor continued. “How long since you have said you have accepted Christ, and you have not been serious? Why are you playing this double game?” Abdulmasi squirmed inside. “This man knows about me. Who told him? Soon he will call out my name!” “You must humble yourself,” the pastor continued. “Just stand up, let me pray for you, and the Lord will forgive you for all you have been doing. Forget that you are an armed robber, forget that you are a killer, forget all those things. Stand up!”

Abdulmasi stood up. His double life ended.

When he went forward to profess his faith in Christ, this time for real, he began a new life in God’s grace. He also opened himself up to retribution from the jihadists with whom he had previously aligned. “Don’t go near the mosque”, one of his boys later warned him. “They will kill you.”

Meanwhile, the church elders were delighted to hear of his commitment, but stunned at the revelation of his double life. “What do we do with this man?”, they debated. “Oust him? Embrace him?” They prayed for three days. Their decision? They would hide him to save his life. “My son,” the pastor told Abdulmasi, “God is going to use you mightly. And God has used him. While hiding at the home of another pastor, Abdulmasi could not help but share his faith with Muslims. He always looked for opportunities to introduce Muslims to Christ, and always looked over his shoulder.

Many men credit him with introducing them to Christ. He secretly counselled teachers of the Quran, and built bridges to persecutors of Christians. Months became years, years became decades. Abdulmasi married, he and his wife had children. But his jihadist past would not be forgotten. He was still a marked man. On one occasion, when Muslims surrounded his house, he narrowly escaped death by slipping out a back way. Three years later, Muslims confronted his college age son. “We have not come to rob you,” one said. “We have come to kill you, because you are your father’s son.” And they slit his throat.

“It was very difficult”, said Abdulmai. “But there is no sacrifice that is too big for God.” And no hurt too deep, that God’s grace cannot cover. Demonstrating great courage, Abdulmasi reached out to share Christ with the man who helped plan his son’s death. The man rebuffed Abdulmasi, however, the man’s son heard about what happened, and showed up at Abdulmasi’s house. “Please,” he said. “Tell me about your Christ.”

“If you want to win Muslims, you have to love them. Not with the human type of love, but with the love you, yourself have experienced through Christ. People are seeing me show my real heart now. If it were not for the grace of God, I would not be who I am.” - Abdulmasi.

They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.

-Apostle Paul, Galatians 1:23-24.


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Luke 15: 4-7:

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.