Dear Friends, while working on my new novel, Tears in the Wind, I came across some recent news on Christian persecution inside Sudan. The situation is terrible, and has been for many years. Let’s remain sensitive to the needs in this difficult place, and pray for strength for those who are faithful in their profession of Jesus Christ as their Savior in this dark land. Even there, where Christ is held close by a desperate few, God still moves powerfully. “False Charges, a short story” gives an example of how God has moved where the faithful endure.—David Telbat
by D.I. Telbat
Akim al-Bashir walked slowly through the abandoned house of a family he knew to be Christian. In Sudan, they were called Nazarenes, after Jesus of Nazareth. As a special agent for the government, Akim had learned as much as he could about the Nazarenes—those who committed apostasy against Allah and Muhammad on a daily basis. Anyone in Sudan who converted to the Nazarene’s faith was punishable with death according to Islamic law.
He thumbed through the pages of a notebook he’d picked up in one of the bedrooms. Someone had taken notes of Bible verses, as if for teaching purposes. Yes, when caught, these Nazarenes would suffer terribly as they died. These people weren’t just believers in Jesus; they were teachers!
In a closet, Akim discovered a false wall panel. After removing the panel, he found the hidden space empty, but large enough to hold perhaps fifty Bibles. So, he had to assume there were fifty Bibles somewhere out there, scattered across this village and in the next city, all under his jurisdiction.
A police sergeant and three officers waited in the living room for his assessment of the missing occupants, and Akim’s orders.
“What will the charges be?” the sergeant asked.
Under such crimes, Akim was given complete discretion. But religious crimes and their accompanying charges required extreme caution. After all, the government didn’t want to create martyrs. That was why Akim was often called in. The right false charges, though believable, needed to be fabricated and filed. Under false charges of child perversion or sadistic violence, the accused party was often alienated by other Nazarenes, bringing universal condemnation. Thereafter, catching the Bible teachers was often immediate. Then, no one cared how badly the government treated the Nazarenes.
Using false charges, Akim had nearly wiped out the Nazarene population in several villages. It had taken ten years, but he had succeeded.
Except, Akim was struggling with this situation. His teenage daughter had been accosted at school a week earlier. The one who had come to her aid was the teenage son of the family in whose house he now stood. A Nazarene had saved the honor of his daughter. Did he owe the Nazarenes now? Not necessarily, but it did make him hesitate with the false charges.
The Muslim population didn’t help people known to be Nazarenes, but the Nazarenes were helping Muslims. This wasn’t the first occurrence, but it was the first time Akim had benefited from the Nazarenes’ love—his own daughter and his family had benefited.
“The Special Branch will handle this investigation,” Akim told the sergeant, referring to his own department. “There are confidential elements to this case I cannot disclose. I’ll deal with it myself.”
“But the family could flee to the Nuba Mountains unless we do something tonight. We need to act now!”
“Do not tell me what to do, Sergeant!” Akim shouted. “Remember to whom you speak, and the power of my position. Leave this house, and speak to no one about this family, or I’ll have you brought up on charges yourself. Is that understood?”
The sergeant saluted, then snapped an order to his men, and they all left.
Not long behind them, Akim exited the house, the notebook under his arm. He realized his decision not to pursue the Nazarenes would be reported, and it would be the unraveling of his favored law enforcement position. But it couldn’t be helped. The kindness of the Nazarenes had turned his heart. Now, he hoped there was enough in the notebook to teach him about the God who came as a Man and taught such kindness.
As he climbed into his car, Akim cursed and looked in the mirror at his reflection. If he became a Nazarene, then he would be the hunted instead of the hunter. But if the Nazarenes possessed the True Way, then he couldn’t remain in the old way. Perhaps this Jesus really was the answer all along.
He drove away from the teacher’s house, imagining what questions he would ask a Nazarene if only he could find one. He had to know more about this Jesus!