TESTIMONY: Dr. Reginald Zahiruddin
CAPTURED BY THE TALIBAN!
“The metal door slammed open and the bright sunlight penetrated the pitch black room for the first time in 25 days, the room where I had been held in chains.”
I was abducted in the early afternoon of the 8th December 2007 on a busy road in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. I was on my routine medical circuit en route to 50 or so very poor patients who were waiting for medical assistance. Khalid (my driver) & I were travelling in the hospital van. We were stopped when a vehicle, carrying Taliban militia, forced us off the road. The car doors flew open and we were confronted by five young men wielding AK-47s! In seconds they pushed us into the back seats and took control of the van. They blindfolded us and we were forced to sit on the floor in between the seats with our heads down and covered with a sheet.
After about three hours of high speed driving through rough terrain we were transferred to the boot of another vehicle, and driven for another hour to reach our final destination. We were led into a room in a mud house where we sat blind folded for 3 hours not knowing the reason for our abduction. It was very cold as it snows during December in the mountainous region where we were held.
The kidnappers took all our belongings (mobile phones, wallets, watches etc) and threatened us, saying, “If you make any sound we will kill you and blow-up the van.” They told us they were wearing suicide jackets and had a supply of hand grenades. At dinnertime they forced us to eat some food, which was difficult to swallow, and drink some foul smelling water. Afterwards they led us into a dark room. Our hands and feet were tightly bound with chains, and we were tied to wooden cots with only thin bedding which hardly kept the cold at bay. This was our prison, with no toilet and no electricity. Two small holes in the wall provided the only air inlet into the dank room, which we thought was to become our tomb.
Rats and lizards were running around; soot from the straw ceiling constantly fell on our faces as we lay on our beds. Our captors would un-tie us for five minutes early each morning and evening so we could relieve ourselves. And we were given a container of water each day (about 2 litres) to drink and clean ourselves. They fed us with half-cooked food in dirty utensils twice each day. It was so cold that I shivered most of the time. Every day seemed dark and endless; and the nights were long and sleepless.
At the time of our abduction the very first thing which came to my mind was, not to panic and be calm. Khalid was very nervous and started to cry so I had to calm him down. All the way from the point of our abduction till we reached the mud house I was praying to God. Four things came to my mind as I prayed … Firstly, that Jesus is my saviour and His Blood will protect me (so I covered myself and Khalid in the blood of Jesus). I was constantly asking God to give me a double anointing of His Holy Spirit. I had been reading the Bible since I was a small boy, and so I wanted whatever I would say to be His word. And a verse from the Bible arose in my heart, repeatedly over and over again … “Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye” (Zech 2:8). I asked God to protect me from any kind of harm they intended to inflict on me and my driver.
This first night was very disturbing. I was angry and questioning inside, as I reminded God that I was a good Christian man. There were no answers from Him but I knew there was a reason for it all. Even when my blindfolds were removed the room was still pitch dark, but when I closed my eyes to pray I could see brightness. Then I saw a globe full of people praying for us, and I saw several faces of people I had never seen before. I related what I saw in the spirit to Khalid; that the whole world is praying for us, but he laughed and said nobody would be bothered about us except our families.
In the first week a Muslim cleric would come four times a day to preach the virtues Islam and force me to embrace the Islam religion. For three days he was polite and tried to communicate his view of heaven. But when I kept on refusing his offer he began to threaten me, saying that he could have me severely beaten and placed in a Taliban jail. Finally, he said, “If you do not obey we will behead you!” The Lord God strengthened and empowered me with the Holy Spirit all through this time. I kept on asking God for a double anointing of the Holy Spirit.
One week later on 15th December, a group of men came into the room at midnight and took the driver away blindfolded, leaving me alone in the room praying for him. After fifteen minutes they brought him back and then it was my turn. They dragged me blindfolded to a room where I could hear whispers and the sound of a video camera. They wanted me to remove my clothes and put on a shalwar kameez (the Islamic dress), which I refused. They forcibly removed my shirt and made me sit on the cold floor. Then they removed my blindfold and I saw a group of ten men sitting in front of me with covered faces, threatening me with their AK-47s. A man with a long dagger sat behind me, touching the dagger to my neck every now and then just to terrify me. They asked me several personal questions and seemed to have lot of information about me. Later, they revealed the two main reasons for my kidnapping. Firstly, they wanted me to convert to Islam threatening to kill me if I refused. God gave me the boldness to answer, “God gave me life and only He has the authority to take it from me.” Then I heard a clear voice from heaven saying, “You will not die but live to proclaim the good works which I have done for you.” After that, I became even bolder and said to them, “I am ready to die, but before dying, I would like to ask you a question, ‘Does your holy book tell you to convert people through force, threats and terror?’” They were speechless after which the ameer (their leader) told them not to ask me any more questions regarding religion.
Secondly, they wanted a huge ransom of twenty million rupees (AUD$500,000). I told them, “I am not a rich person. I work in a charitable hospital on a monthly salary and no one will pay this amount for me.” They still forced me to write a ransom note. After an hour of intense interrogation I was returned to the room. I said to God that they would buy arms and ammunition to kill hundreds of people if the ransom was paid. So I said, “God take my life instead of those hundreds of innocent lives who would be killed.” The Lord reassured me that everything would turn out alright.
Every day I would spend 18-20 hours in prayer and worship. I asked God to show me a miracle. I said, “I have forgiven these people who kidnapped me as Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. Please soften their hearts and take me out of this place without ransom because Jesus has paid my ransom. I want to go with my driver, the van and all our belongings.” A few days later these men came and sat on our cots. They started to talk politely, telling me they had enquired about me and found out that I was really a nice person, so they reduced their ransom demand from twenty million to just one million rupees. They wanted me to write a note to my wife to arrange for this amount. After they left the room I was disappointed with myself as I asked God for an unconditional release. I felt I had compromised my faith by agreeing to write the ransom note for 1 million rupees. I said, “I still believe that you are the living God and you have the power to take us out from this place without ransom.” That night God showed me my fate in a dream. He told me that I would be set free on Wednesday afternoon and He showed me that our captors would return all our belongings. In the dream I saw Khalid driving the van down Miranshah Road. The following morning I told Khalid (who was a Muslim) all that God had revealed. He just laughed and said, “That’s impossible. They are not going to give us anything back.”
“We will just have to wait and see,” I replied.
On Tuesday night, 1st. January 2008, unable to sleep, I prayed and thanked God for all His wonderful blessings. Then on Wednesday afternoon, about 12-30pm, we heard the sound of a car pulling up outside our room. The man with the dagger came in, his face uncovered, declaring loudly, “Congratulations! You are free! Wash yourselves and get ready to go.” Again, we were blindfolded and he drove us for an hour, then handed us over to another man who took us into his house. He offered us tea but I told him that I was fasting and that I would break my fast at 6-00pm. He respected that and gave me a place to pray. At 6-00pm I came out of the room to find a table set with good food and some men standing by. When I saw all this, Psalm 23 came to mind … “He sets a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” I thanked God for our release and ate with them. Finally a member of the council of Taliban came and gave us our belongings and said the van is also coming soon. He asked us to check that nothing was missing from the van, then he drove us to a rendezvous point, and as he drove, he asked me to tell him about Jesus Christ. I thanked God for the opportunity and without wasting any time took full ten minutes to tell him about Jesus Christ.
During our 25 days in captivity no one knew where we were, no one knew if we were dead or alive, until I called my wife some minutes before reaching home. These 25 days gave me time for meditation and fellowship with the Lord. I had plenty of time to look into my past and I thought about my mistakes and short comings throughout my life. I rededicated my life to serve Him faithfully.
The people of Waziristan appealed for me in the majlis-e-shora (the 10 member-council of Taliban) and an intense search was made for us.
God listened to my prayers, and the prayers of millions of people around the world. Two men from the majlis-e-shora came and took us unharmed out of that horrible place. We had not washed for twenty-five days and wore same clothes. We did not have toothbrushes or toothpaste, not even a comb. My beard and nails grew. He delivered us, all glory to His mighty name. And although Khalid, my driver, never became a Christian, he often points at me when talking about our ordeal and says, “His God is great!”
Dr. Reginald Zahiruddin
Pennell Memorial Christian Hospital,
Bannu. NWFP. Pakistan.