Pakistani Christian shares his stories of persecution
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:46 p.m.
Buried alive, nearly beheaded and jailed numerous times, Steven Masood acknowledged he has many reasons to be bitter over the persecutions he says he suffered in Pakistan for having turned from his Muslim faith to Christianity. But after finding freedom in America eight years ago, he says he is filled with words of gratitude on this Thanksgiving weekend.
“First of all, I am thankful to God,” Masood said. “Had it not been for the food sent from America and Canada to the northern region of Pakistan, my generation, at that time, back in the ’60s, would have died. Secondly, I am thankful that these American missionaries brought us spiritual food. God already sent someone to die for me. So, I’m thankful for that, as well.”
Born into an Islamic reformist sect called Ahmadiyya, Masood left home at 18 to become a Sunni Muslim. Prior to that, he had received Christian Bibles in the Urdu language on separate occasions. They were immediately taken from him. Even though he continued studying the principles of Islam and memorized the entire Quran, Masood began to question the tenets of his faith. While a student of Islamic studies, he faced persecution from other college students for speaking out, he said.
“I would say, ‘No, that is wrong,’ and I would get myself in trouble by telling the truth,” Masood said. “One day, Muslim students at the same university drugged me and buried me alive in an open grave in the graveyard.”
Masood believes his escape was something of a miracle.
“It was the rainy season,” he said. “In the middle of the night, the monsoon rain came. The graveyard was at the bottom of the hill, the reservoir overflowed from the top. Not only was it full of water, but more rain came and washed away everything, including the grave where I was. I started breathing in and became aware that I was going to be drowned in the water. I was floating. I didn’t know how to swim. I started worrying about what should I do. There was a big banyan tree. I climbed in it and sat there. Anyway, God saved my life. The next day, I was reading in the newspaper that 238 people died because of the monsoon rain, and you can imagine, here I was alive.”
When Masood announced his concerns about Islam to his family, his father disowned him. According to Masood, his father dragged him by the collar into the street where a Muslim priest uttered a funeral prayer over him. His hands bound, he was placed on a donkey and was about to be beheaded when the donkey became agitated and ran off. Masood believes God protected him again that day.
Suppressing fear for his life, Masood continued to seek answers, he said.
“The more I wanted to be a good Muslim, the more I had these questions, but there was no assurance for me,” Masood said. “I was performing all the prayers and everything. I was studying the traditions of Islam. Mohammad said, ‘By works we will not be saved.’ So, people asked him, ‘What about you?’ And he said, ‘Even I, unless God covers me with his grace and mercy.’ So, here I was, searching for that grace and mercy. I was so upset, because nobody was telling me the truth.”
In December 1971, while India and Pakistan were warring over what is now Bangladesh, Masood huddled in the dark as shells fell all around. Afterward, he went to a church in Karachi. The pastor gave him a Bible and Masood spent the next two years studying it.
“I was reading and checking for myself,” Masood said. “I was quite surprised that there was an answer for me. I went back and forth. This is what Christians say, this is what Muslims say. I saw the answer in John 1:17, ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’ve been looking for this grace.’ ”
Masood became even more outspoken and was jailed several times. He said a Muslim secret service man, who had become a friend, felt compassion for him and bailed him out of prison.
“I had no passport, but friends abroad who had come to know about me and were praying for me encouraged me to leave the country,” Masood said. “This fellow got me a passport and an ID card, and he got me a ticket and put me on an airplane. God has power to use people for his glory. He saved my life.”
However, even in England, Masood’s life was again threatened. On a couple occasions, his car was set on fire with a device that heated up while he was driving, Masood said.
After responding to several calls for speaking engagements in the United States, Masood relocated here in 2005. During a seminar in New Port Richey, he met the woman who would become his wife.
“Karen was already on my mailing list. I had sent her books,” Masood said. “Because of 9/11, her interest was in why Muslims do what they do. I do believe the Lord had brought this woman into my life.”
Now residents of Summerfield, the Masoods attend Village View Community Church. Previously an adjunct professor of comparative religions at Columbia International University, Masood now speaks at Christian churches and Bible study groups. He has written several books that compare the teachings of Islam with Christianity. Highly educated in both faiths, Masood also provides resource materials on reaching out to Muslims.
David Brett, fellowship pastor at Village View, expressed his respect for Masood.
“He has excellent academic credentials,” Brett said. “He has an incredible story. His ministry isn’t without a certain element of danger. He’s pretty outspoken on the different issues in Islamic tradition. Right now, he’s finishing a 12-week class on worldviews. He also has led a men’s Bible study.”
For Masood, his encouragement to continue comes from one of his favorite verses of scripture, Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone that believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
Karen Masood conducts women’s seminars and reaches out to Muslim women and to American women who have married Muslim men.
“I have learned, as an American woman, Islam is a religion for male domination. It’s nothing like Christianity,” Karen said. “When I was 21, I dated a Muslim in New York and he almost killed me. As far as he was concerned, I was his property. I broke up with him, and I couldn’t do that.
“What I learned on 9/11, their god teaches them to kill in order to be in paradise. My question was, ‘How can any religion teach their people to kill in the name of their god? And, God answered my question when he sent my husband and I heard him speak. I am thankful for a husband who lives according to the word of God, and I’m so thankful that God would be so merciful and loving to me that he would send this man all the way from Pakistan to Florida to marry me.”
Though Steven Masood will never be able to return to his homeland or see his 15 brothers and sisters again, he said he is encouraged by the early pilgrims.
“I read how the forefathers were persecuted for their faith, and then they came here,” he said. “There’s no place on earth that has freedom like us of America, and I’m really thankful to God that I can share my faith with people. Thanksgiving is not just about turkey or having a good time. It is actually thanking God that here is a country that still holds that light of freedom at the top of a hill to show people that this is what freedom is all about. For me, this is my last frontier. There is no land on the face of the earth where we could breathe freedom as in this country.”
For more information, visit www.jesustomuslims.org, www.itl-usa.org or www.stevenmasood.org.