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Compass – Until earlier this year, Sardauna Anaruwa Sashi was an unwavering Muslim in Niger state, where sharia (Islamic law) has been imposed. The 30-year-old resident of Paiko came to Christ after becoming curious about the sounds of celebration at a Baptist wedding service. On September 21 he was arrested by the police, detained for four days, and severely tortured.

Only the timely intervention of a Christian lawyer, Michael Paiko Ibrahim, and the Rev. Matthew Oladokun, the pastor of the town’s First Baptist Church , saved Sashi from being killed in the police cell. The policemen had arrested him after spotting him in town, where he had gone to grind some maize for his family’s food for that day.

“On that day, a police patrol team parked beside me and ordered me into their vehicle,” Sashi said. “They took me to their station and asked to know whether I was a Muslim. I told them I was once a Muslim but was now a Christian.”

The officers asked him to recite the Shadah, the Islamic creed, and to demonstrate how Muslims pray and worship Allah. Sashi complied. They asked why he had converted from Islam to Christianity.

“Before I could respond to their question, they started beating me,” he said. “I was beaten with police batons and clubbed to the point of death.”

Bludgeoned into a stupor, Sashi was clamped into a police cell for four days. At last Rev. Oladokun learned of the arrest.

“I went to the police station to bail him out, but the policemen refused him bail,” said Rev. Oladokun. “I contacted a member of our church who was a lawyer, and we went to the police station, but this time they demanded that we pay an equivalent of $100 [about two months minimum wage in Nigeria] before we bail him. We could not pay the money. However, after persisting, he was released to us.”

Sashi has since received death threats from Muslims in the town.

Sashi’s account of his conversion reads like a parable. In Paiko, he was drawn to a celebration in the Baptist church. He went to the window of the church to catch a glimpse of what was going on inside; it turned out to be a wedding.

Rev. Oladokun saw him watching through the window. The pastor asked his wife to usher Sashi into the church, where he was given a seat and made one of the guests at the wedding banquet.

This event mesmerized Sashi; he returned to the church the following four weeks, and eventually gave his life to Christ. Discipled by the fellowship and immersed in the Bible, Sashi began a new life that led to the conversion of his wife Dole, his elder brother Dumile and younger sister Salami.

“I am happy that my wife, too, has accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord – she now attends church programs regularly,” he said. “I no longer do things that are bad. I love Jesus, and I will serve him for the rest of my life.”

Besides threats on his life, Sashi has faced loss of income. His employment caring for cattle belonging to Paiko Muslims came to an end when they told him they could no longer retain his services, as he was now an “infidel.”

Rev. Oladokun says his greatest fear is that, “Sashi’s life and that of his family is in danger.” The town Muslims will never relent in their efforts to kill him, he said.

Sashi said he will never recant.

“Even though I have had to face difficulties almost on a daily basis, I will never renounce my Christian faith, even if it means I have to die,” he said. “I also pray that my relatives who have also converted will not be intimidated into going back to Islam.”

According to Rev. Oladokun, Sashi’s ordeal is one of numerous cases of persecution of Christians in Niger state since the implementation of sharia.