Prison Fellowship International, Prison Fellowship’s ministry counterpart, is the largest, most extensive association of national Christian ministries working within the criminal justice field. To learn more about PFI, visit www.pfi.org.
Ibrahim wears deep lines on his forehead, and bears a scar across his left cheek. At first glance, he looks tough, capable, self-assured. His hard stare seems to convey a warning. But when he smiles, his face tells a different story—one of hope, of quiet change, and new beginnings. It’s a story of spiritual transformation, which is capturing the hearts of thousands of prisoners outside the United States.
Ibrahim came to prison devout in his Muslim faith. He completed Koranic studies twice, and became a teacher to new Muslim inmates. He knew about Christ—“Isa” in Islam—but he didn’t understand Him.
“I often mocked Christians whenever they talked about Jesus Christ, because in the Koran He was presented differently,” says Ibrahim. “I saw [Christians] as lost people who needed to be shown the right way to worship Allah.”
Despite his commitment to his faith, Ibrahim did not have peace. He shared about his many sleepless nights where he heard “invisible people crying in his ears,” and how committing crimes against non-Muslims made him feel happy.
“I did not believe in forgiveness when someone hurt me,” he says.
Ibrahim was reluctant when Prison Fellowship Nigeria invited him to learn about The Prisoner’s Journey® Bible study and discipleship program in his prison. But curiosity outweighed his reluctance. The first lesson focused on who Jesus is, why he came to earth, and what this means in the life of a prisoner. The class facilitators noted Ibrahim’s tense resistance and visible inner struggle to the information presented. They knew God was working. In that first lesson, Ibrahim said he “discovered something unique about the person of Jesus Christ, which challenged my initial views about Him. It also pointed to the fact that my understanding could be wrong and I needed urgent help.
As Ibrahim opened his heart and mind to the teachings from the Gospel of Mark, he says he experienced “a quiet, steady change in his heart, mind, and behavior.” The crying in his ears silenced, and he slept soundly again. He accepted and extended forgiveness. And for the first time, he says he felt peace.
“I became enthusiastic to attend discipleship class, other church programs, and [felt] a deep desire to share the message of Jesus Christ with other people.”
But his brave conversion came with a cost. The life of a new Christian is not always easy, but it can be particularly difficult for a prisoner in another country, who claims an entirely new faith. Ibrahim says his Muslim brothers resent his conversion and he experiences severe persecution from his fellow Muslim inmates
“I disappointed them as one of the Koranic teachers,” he says. “My uncle’s reaction about my conversion was rejection. My mother … wept bitterly.”
When Ibrahim is released from prison, he may not be accepted back into his home, but he is determined in and committed to his new faith.
“My plans after serving my jail term are to be courageous in sharing the Gospel. Though this may not be easy … I will not renounce my faith in Christ.”
Pray for Ibrahim, and for brave men and women around the world, who courageously say “yes” to following Jesus.