PRAGUE, Czech Republic – For years he served the persecuted church with The Voice of the Martyrs. Then at the end of a trip to Sudan, Czech national Petr Jasek was arrested and charged with espionage.
He was jailed on that charge with Islamic militants and later sentenced to 20 years. But now he's free from prison and Jasek is revealing some of the details of his harrowing experience.
Near Death Experience
Shortly after his arrest, missionary Jasek was imprisoned with members of ISIS.
"One of the ISIS members was a Libyan guy who at the age of 12 was a personal guard for Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora and later on when he returned to Libya he was one of the murderers who slaughtered the 20 Egyptians on the Libyan shore," Petr explained.
"He took out a fishing string, quite a strong fishing string from his pocket and he was showing how he could kill a person within a few seconds with this fishing string. He told me if I was an American or Russian that he would break my neck immediately and kill me."
Petr discovered his other cellmates were just as extreme. When asked to share news from the outside, he told them about the Paris terrorist attack.
"When I said the 129 people got killed they interrupted me and they started to shout, 'Allahu Akbar' for several minutes. So, immediately I knew the company that I was in and I stopped telling them anymore news," he said.
"They called me a filthy pig, or filthy rat, and if I did not react to this new name they started to beat me, slapping my face, or fist to my face and they used a wooden stick. So gradually I started to live with the new name. I was not Petr anymore, I was just 'filthy pig.'"
Persecuted Helping the Persecuted
How did it come to this? Why was this man dedicated to helping persecuted Christians now himself persecuted?
Petr's arrest came in December 2015, just two years after the Sudanese government thought it had expelled all foreign Christian workers from the country.
While visiting Sudan, Petr met with Christian leaders and recorded some video. Agents confiscated his equipment and charged him with spying against the government.
During his first four months in jail Petr asked God to return him to his family. His epiphany came after he led some Eritrean prisoners to Christ.
His purpose? To share the Gospel.
"And I suddenly started to realize that there is a purpose, the Lord has a purpose for me to be in prison to share the Gospel with those people," Petr explained.
"And I started to be even more courageous to open my mouth and share the Gospel also with the Muslims who were in the previous cell with me," he added.
In January 2017, a Sudanese court sentenced Petr to 20 years in prison. His work helping persecuted Christians in Sudan was considered an anti-state activity – espionage.
"I really was considered to be a very dangerous person. They mentioned I am an employee of a spy organization called VOM. Actually [they believed] VOM was a spy organization [not a mission]," he said.
From Communist Persecution to Islamic Persecution
The son of a pastor, Petr had experienced persecution before while growing up in communist Czechoslovakia.
Christian oppression intensified in Czechoslovakia after Red Army tanks rolled through Prague in August 1968. Government agents constantly monitored Petr's parents and their Christian activities.
"They knew that we were receiving Bibles, and we were receiving Christian literature and we were also distributing, my parents were distributing that," he said.
One day Petr returned home from school and found his parents missing.
"They were arrested. They were arrested by secret police and interrogated. Apparently the government, the secret police, wanted to know what was going on in our house," he said.
And 36 years later, like his parents, Petr was arrested for his Christian activities – only this time at the hands of Islamists, not communists.
But God prepared Petr for his prison experience years earlier, when his father gave him a special gift.
"Without saying much, he brought the book written by Richard Wurmbrand. The name of the book in German was En Gottis Undergrund, which means In God's Underground in English, and I was fluent in German at that time already. He gave me this book and said read this book. It will encourage your faith," Petr recalled.
His father passed away at the age of 89 while Petr was in prison.
And what did Petr think his father would say to him about his time in prison and what he went through?
"I'm quite sure that he'd be proud of me. I'm quite sure, yeah," he replied emotionally.
Petr was freed after spending 14 months in prison. He credits the Czech government for negotiating his release and the prayers and support of Christians around the world. Nearly half a million people signed a petition for him, and thousands sent encouraging cards and letters.
Petr says he was brought to tears when he heard some Sudanese women near the prison singing Christian praise songs.
Surviving Prison, by the Grace of God
How did the prison experience change him?
"When you come through this situation you realize that everything you have is the grace of God and it is on His strength that it is in prison, it is not your own strength that you can survive. Being humble and being faithful to the last moment, this is the moment when we can be more than conquerors when we go through difficult situations because of our faith in Jesus Christ," Petr explained.
A humble servant of the persecuted church, persecuted himself and then freed from prison, he is grateful for those who prayed and for learning to wait patiently on God for victory and grace.