Peter Haneef, now President of Bibles for Mideast's Assembly of Loving God (ALG) Church, grew up in a fanatic Muslim family in a predominantly Islamic Asian country. For reasons that should become obvious in his story below, we cannot share his real name, nationality or location for his and his family’s safety.
“I was strict to follow Islamic rituals and cultures,” he explains. As he grew in his extremist beliefs, he wouldn’t think of associating with anyone from other faiths. “I hated them from my boyhood,” he admits.
One day, he heard about a young Muslim fellow from his area who had become Christian. So he decided to round up seven of his friends and take vengeance on the apostate. They attacked the new convert while he walked to his church on a Sunday morning, brutally stabbing him to death.
“Before he died, I was shocked to see him start praying,” Pastor Peter recalls. The words of the prayer stunned him even more.
“Lord Jesus, receive my life in your hands,” he heard him pray. “I praise you Lord for giving me an eternal home with you in heaven. But Lord, show these friends your forgiving love and great salvation. Bring them unto your fold, so that they may know that you are the resurrection and the life. Amen.” Then he died.
“We laughed at his nonsense, spat on his dead body and threw away our knives. We believed he would surely go to hell as a kafir [Arabic for infidel or unbeliever—Ed.]. The leaders of our mosque appreciated our action. But the police arrested all of us that night.”
“Because we did it for the sake of Allah and his religion Islam, we thought certainly Allah will save us from all troubles and the religious leaders will stand behind us.”
The court had other ideas. Three of the murderers, Pastor Peter included, received the death penalty. Four others were sentenced to life imprisonment in another jail, while the youngest, a teenager, was sent to a prison for juvenile offenders.
The leaders of the mosque offered no help whatsoever. They refused to get involved with the case, and did not even try to visit their loyal Muslim brothers. The men’s parents decided to try jointly filing an appeal to the higher court.
“The higher court changed our execution order to lifetime imprisonment,” Pastor Peter explains. “The others now got seven years imprisonment.”
While their outlooks seemed less bleak, the men still lost all hope. Their parents filed another petition to the higher court, but the sentences remained unchanged.
Two years dragged by, and the men found themselves haunted by thoughts and dreams of their victim’s last words. Pastor Haneef’s parents died, only adding to his agony.
One day, several Bibles for Mideast missionaries visited his jail as part of their prison ministry. They arranged a meeting in the recreation hall, and the jailer requested the murderers’ attendance.
With no intention to listen or respond in any way, the men filed into the meeting room. But as Pastor Paul, director of the ministry, shared the dramatic story of his own conversion from Islam they found themselves unable to block out his powerful words.
“Usually we would have been violent and try to attack him because he was a convert from Islam,” Pastor Haneef explains. “But we did not feel any anger towards him!” That was their first surprise.
When the meeting ended, the three approached Pastor Paul, introduced themselves, and then spilled out the story of their crime. They explained they knew they would never be released from jail, and were equally certain they’d end up in hell.
Pastor Paul listened quietly. With tears in his eyes, he told them the murdered man had been one of his best friends, a convert to Christianity with the help of his own mission organization. The men were shaken.
“Now he is with our Lord Jesus in heaven praising Him forever,” Pastor Paul explained. “You can go to heaven too, if you really confess before our Lord and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour. He is able to free you from jail, and also from sin and death. He was crucified, died and then rose from the dead for your salvation.”
Practically as one, the three convicts responded to the invitation and accepted Jesus as their saving Lord.
“Then he asked us to kneel down,” recalls Pastor Peter. “He and the other missionaries laid their hands on our heads and prayed for us. Surprisingly, we all felt great peace.”
That night, Jesus appeared before Pastor Peter.
“I am the light of the world,” he heard Jesus say to him. “Whoever walks in my light will not go to the darkness. Follow me. And you will certainly be free, for I, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, give you freedom. Those who believe in me will have eternal life.”
“He touched me with His nail-pierced hands, and then disappeared,” Pastor Peter remembers with awe.
The other two men, remarkably, had matching experiences that night.
“On the third day, as a miracle we heard that the court ordered to release us from the jail! It was absolutely a miracle. We never thought we would ever be out of jail. Indeed Lord Jesus freed us.”
The other four men were freed the same day from the jail they’d been in. When the new converts shared their experiences with their newly-released friends, they too accepted Jesus into their lives as savior and Lord.
Unfortunately, the men’s families and friends responded entirely differently. Pastor Haneef’s younger brother had by then become owner of the family home, but would not allow his now-Christian brother to enter. The others had similar experiences. All were rejected by their families and communities for their new faith, and had no idea where to go or what to do.
Pastor Paul had a vision from the Lord about their predicament. He contacted them, and invited them to his own small rental home. All were soon baptized, and stayed with him for about two months. Pastor Paul arranged for the men to receive bible training, and helped them find another house to live in while they studied.
“We had no leave in Bible School for we had nowhere to go,” Pastor Peter recounts. “Four or five days in a month we had a mission trip with Pastor Paul. We learned midnight prayer from him. We adopted it. It is a great asset for our spiritual strength and ministry. After Sunday worship we conducted corner meetings. We got best training there!”
Nine years later, he is married to a fellow former Muslim and has two children. He works diligently as an evangelist and church planter with Bibles for Mideast and leads the Assembly of Loving God (ALG) umbrella organization
All seven of his fellow prisoners work with Bibles for Mideast as well. The man who had been in juvenile detention had been released before them, and unfortunately remains an enemy of Christ and of them.
“We suffer many persecutions, but Lord Jesus strengthens us by the prayers of many children of God,” says Pastor Peter.
Please pray for him, the work of the ministry and for the many desperately needing to discover the truth and peace possible only in Jesus.