An Islamic extremist who was among the most violent persecutors of Christians in Syria has converted to his victim's religion and experienced God's mercy and grace in an incredible way, according to one missionary's account.
Pastor Tom Doyle, a longtime missionary to the Middle East and author of the books Killing Christians and Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?, tells the story of Osama, a Muslim extremist working with the ruthless terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate.
Despite the jihadist fighter's violent past, God had bigger plans for him. A Christian began sharing the Gospel with Osama, and the Holy Spirit slowly began to soften his heart. Osama eventually surrendered his life to Christ, turning from his former path.
Osama's transformation infuriated the terror group he once served, and he was immediately seized and brutally tortured by the al-Nusra fighters. The night before his scheduled execution, Osama was told that he would be spared if he renounced his faith in Jesus Christ and returned to Islam.
Despite facing certain death, Osama refused to deny Christ. His executioner was so impressed with Osama's unflinching faith that he instructed him, "When we blindfold you, and when you hear the first shot, hit the ground and do not move. Pretend that you are a dead man."
Osama followed his instructions, and opened his eyes minutes later to find the men in the firing squad dead and the execution leader gone. Currently, Osama remains safe in a secluded location, Charisma News reveals.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked Syria in 4th place on its 2015 World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith. Believers, who make up around 8 percent of the Syrian population, have suffered primarily at the hands of extremist groups like ISIS and al-Nusra. Determined to rid the region of those who do not adhere to their brand of hardline Islam, such terrorist groups are known for destroying churches and sometimes entire towns, murdering dozens of followers of Christ.
However, Open Doors notes that "Amidst all violence and persecution, there are also sparks of hope...Though many Christians have left the country, a growing number of people are converting to Christ in the deplorable situation of civil war."
Pastor Doyle echoes such claims, emphasizing that he has seen the Kingdom grow in spectacular ways across the Middle East and other parts of the non-Western world despite overwhelming persecution.
"Jesus' message of love and reconciliation thrives in a climate where hostility, danger, and martyrdom are present. Persecution and the spread of the gospel are as inseparable as identical twins. Suffering propels the growth of Jesus movements around the world," he writes.
He encourages Christians to ask themselves: "Are you willing to suffer for Jesus? Are you willing to die for Jesus? For you as a believer-if you answer 'yes' to the two questions-this is a spiritual game changer. Everything will be different now."