Ninety Days to Freedom: Part One

February 6, 2013 by Open Doors in General

Masket with his wife and children

For 90 days pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov was locked up in a Kazakh prison cell. Facing the threat of deportation to his native Uzbekistan to almost-certain years of harsh imprisonment, he never waived from his resolve to serve Jesus.

His alleged crime was leading small Christian house churches without official registration. By 2007, his activities had made Pastor Makset a wanted criminal, and he fled across the border into Kazakhstan to escape arrest. By 2009, he and his family had been granted refugee status there from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but Kazakhstan’s government refused to recognize it.

In 2012, the Uzbekistan authorities added charges of terrorism to the criminal accusations against Makset, and demanded that the Kazakh government extradite him to face trial and a potential 15-year prison sentence. His pregnant wife, Aygul, and the couple’s four young sons watched in helpless shock as the Kazakh police arrested him in their home at noon on September 5. They would not see each other again for three months.

Late last year, a few weeks after they had flown to safety and a new life in a European country, they told the story of their family’s faith ordeal in a series of interviews with World Watch Monitor.

“Ever since I became a Christian nearly 13 years ago,” Makset recalled, “I kept having this dream that I was being chased by people trying to capture me, and every time I would escape.” The dream was always the same, he said, until one day in September. “The day before I was arrested I again dreamed about being chased, this time I got caught.”

The police tricked Aygul into coming to the station first. After questioning her for 45 minutes, they ordered her to write down all her contact information, and then took her fingerprints and some photos.

“Now we need your husband,” they announced. She quickly called Makset before the police escorted her back home.

She broke into tears as the police took him away. “Oh, we just want his fingerprints!” they said, sounding glib. For the rest of the day, she said, “Our oldest son kept calling me during every break at school, worried and asking if his dad had come back yet.” At 5 p.m., her phone rang again. This time, it was Makset. “This is very serious. Call everyone you can. Tell them what is happening to me.” Then there was silence. The police confiscated his phone. It was the last Aygul would hear from her husband for six days.

Through tears, Aygul started calling everywhere for help. Within two days, the high commissioner for refugees confirmed that Uzbekistan was insisting Makset be extradited for trial. On September 7, Aygul learned that a Kazakh court had remanded him to prison for 40 days while his case was under review.

“The first day they wanted to beat me, and the police were very rude to me,” Makset said, “but they didn’t mistreat me physically.”  

“Those first days after my arrest were the hardest,” he said. “It was an emotional time, and everything hit into my heart. I was joyful on the outside, but I was very stressed inside. I was thinking about my family. What will happen to our children if I’m sent to Uzbekistan?”

And in answer, he said, he heard God in his prayers; I will not send you back to Uzbekistan.

Next week we will continue with Makset’s testimony.

Thank You, Father, for Makset’s journey to freedom and for the peace and assurance You gave him about his wife and children as he lay in his prison cell. Thank You for Your Spirit living in him breathing life into Your Word as it guided his thoughts and built his faith. Thank You for his faithful work on behalf of Your church both in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. We pray Your presence and blessing will surround them as they build a new life far away from their home country. In the name of Jesus our only true hope, Amen.

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