The problem, Scarborough said, is what to do with prisoners after they are released. After previous attempts to transport the prisoners to allied countries were undercut by media reports, Scarborough maintained the prison is still open because “our allies know they can’t trust us.”
One of South Africa’s leading evangelists says he believes the gospel profoundly affected Nelson Mandela‘s outlook as he re-entered politics after his years in prison.
Evangelist Michael Cassidy said Billy Grahamasked him to visit Mandela in 1992 in response to a letter Mandela had written to Graham after he left prison.
He said he personally took a signed copy of Graham’s book, Peace with God, to Mandela.
“I remember him telling me that when he was in prison he never missed Bible study or church service or Sunday nights. I was very impressed by that,” Cassidy said.
“I personally like to believe that the Christian gospel also informed his responses. It wasn’t just pragmatic politics. These were principles in his heart and soul and mind that he had come to believe were right,” he continued.
At Mandela’s request, Cassidy went to network with other church leaders to press for reconciliation, both before and after Mandela’s election in 1994.
“He was saddened that there were portions of the church that had given explicit or implicit support for the apartheid system and had legitimized it theologically,” he reminisced.
“But it was not lost on him that the church was a very important player in the whole process whereby apartheid was brought to an end,” Cassidy added.
Cassidy said Mandela wrote a letter to Graham saying he was touched by one of Graham’s TV broadcasts while in prison.
Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s first president from 1994 to 1999. He remains an emblem of the fight against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation. Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s first president from 1994 to 1999. He remains an emblem of the fight against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation.
American pastor Saeed Abedini not only faces deadly conditions in Iran’s Rajai Shahr Prison, but we can now confirm that he faces direct threats on his life from other prisoners.
Abedini’s Iranian family was able to visit him yesterday—the second visitation allowed since he was transferred to the deadly new prison last month.
Abedini is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives. Abedini’s “cell” is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners—murderers and rapists—unfettered access to him 24 hours a day.
He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.
As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication being withheld by prison authorities, Abedini’s health has quickly deteriorated.
The pain in his stomach has returned, and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys. As a result of repeated beatings in Evin Prison, he suffered from internal bleeding. After months of being refused medical care, he was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year. As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided. However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication, and his condition is worsening.
Abedini is being refused medication prescribed by Iranian doctors for injuries he sustained from prison beatings. This is one of the most deplorable human rights violations imaginable.
To make matters worse, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to his body being covered head to toe in lice. Because of the lice and increased pain, Abedini has been having trouble sleeping. He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections. There is no medication to stop the infections. He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.
Abedini’s family reports that he has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.
The conditions he faces are unfathomable. He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis.
Iran has sent him to disappear. The Obama administration abandoned this U.S. citizen when given the opportunity to negotiate his release, even reportedly releasing an Iranian scientist for nothing in return. Abedini has been left for dead.
As Gospel for Asia pastor Ugyen Tashi entered the prison, three iron gates loomed before him like grim sentinels.
His heart felt cold when he passed through the first gate. At the second gate, a searing realization came over him: He would not see the outside world for a few years. He would be cut off from his wife, his infant daughter and his fellow believers.
The third gate led him into the dark, cramped cell that would now be his home. As he entered, the high walls seemed to close in on him.
“I could not see anything except the sky,” he remembers.
Pastor Ugyen had been branded an enemy of his country for sharing the love of Christ, yet he knew God had allowed his prison sentence for a reason. The Gospel for Asia (GFA) national missionary would have three years to tell the murderers, drug addicts and thieves he would now live with about the One who came to break their shackles of bondage and set them truly free.
“Our Lord had to go through inhuman beating and humiliation and ultimately death,” Ugyen says. “[My suffering] was nothing compared to the pain and agony our Lord went through. … I thanked the Lord because it was just for three years.”
Even though Pastor Ugyen was forced to leave his vibrant life of ministry and fellowship for the oppressive darkness of prison, it was as if a candle had been lit in a pitch-black room.
A Flickering Candle
Ugyen’s unique presence in the prison as a child of God came to light almost immediately. When he entered the cell, some of the inmates asked him if he had brought tobacco or cigarettes. The contrast was evident: Ugyen longed to read the Bible, while they craved tobacco.“I told those inmates I was a believer and I was brought in for sharing about Jesus to people,” Ugyen says. “When the inmates heard about it, they wondered why I was punished for such a thing. They said they were imprisoned for stealing, killing and robbing, but my case was altogether different, and I did not deserve all this.”While Ugyen’s presence brightened the prison with the light of Christ, challenges and darkness continued to hover over him. His battle was just beginning, but Christ would give him the strength to press on and to minister to his fellow prisoners.
Crushed but Not Destroyed
The prison conditions discouraged Ugyen’s soul and weakened his health. Ten to 12 prisoners had to share a 10-square-foot room, and the prisoners were rarely allowed to use the restroom.
“If we needed to go to the restroom, we had to ask for the guard to come and accompany us,” Ugyen says. “When we asked them to take us to the restroom, they would verbally abuse us. That’s the reason why most of us had our own cans in which we used to urinate. Because of such things, our rooms used to be very dirty and smelly. … I used to tell myself that not even my enemy should have to go through all this.”
The cramped, unhygienic facilities also aggravated Ugyen’s asthma. He got little sleep, and his health deteriorated.
One night he became severely ill. He couldn’t stop coughing, and his body felt unusually cold. Although he told the guard about his health, he suffered for many hours before receiving permission to see a doctor. The guards handcuffed Ugyen and bound his feet before taking him to the hospital.
“They took me to the hospital like an animal,” he remembers.
When he arrived, the doctor didn’t treat him much better.
“When I explained to [the doctor] about my ailments, he did not pay much attention but just scribbled something on a paper and prescribed some medicines for me,” Ugyen says. “Since I was a prisoner, the doctor showed very little interest in treating me.”
Upon returning to prison, Ugyen faced an ordeal each day to take his prescribed medicines because the guards did not permit him to keep them. As a result, Ugyen often couldn’t take his medicines on time, leaving him in the same condition as before.
“I thought I would never see my family because of the sickness and the ill treatment the jail guards gave me,” Ugyen says, “but God’s plans are higher and better than ours.”
The Weapon of Abiding
As the challenges of prison pressed in on him, Ugyen had a weapon to defend himself against despair: dependence on Christ and His Word.
“One can easily become discouraged and depressed in prison when thoughts of his family and freedom come to mind. … When you are gripped with such thoughts, you feel as though you are paralyzed,” Ugyen says. “To win over such situations, we need to know the Lord and spend time in prayer and meditating on God’s Word.”
Ugyen did just that, gaining strength to endure his sentence.
One Bible verse particularly uplifted Ugyen’s heart: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8).
“Because of the encouragement from verses like this, the Lord preserved my life and gave me victory,” Ugyen says. “Nothing could discourage me or destroy me during the last three years in prison because I clung to the Word of God.”
Ugyen spent his days in prison in the presence of the Lord and often cried out to Him. As he prayed, God refreshed him and burdened his heart to reach the other prisoners.
“There is not much an individual can do [in prison] apart from praying and spending time with the Lord,” Ugyen says. “I came to know there were so many believers, pastors, churches and leaders around the world who had been praying for me. Then I started praying for the inmates in the prison and [my country].”
God responded to his prayers, giving Ugyen opportunities to tell the prisoners why the bleakness of prison hadn’t broken him. He watched many prisoners succumb to despair, resorting to drug use or reaching the brink of mental breakdowns.
“Many inmates used to wonder how I got the power to face the situation. They said they would become very discouraged and sad thinking about their imprisonment,” Ugyen says. “I used to talk to them and encourage them. … I used to tell them very often about Jesus because they had lost hope.”
Eventually some of the inmates started joining Ugyen in prayer, and three of his fellow inmates put their faith in Christ.
After being released in March, Ugyen spent time rejoicing in God’s faithfulness with his family and fellow pastors. He had opportunities to share how God uplifted him and used him in prison.
“As servants of God, we need to learn the Bible and memorize verses as much as we can,” Ugyen says. “We have to prepare ourselves with the Word of God so in situations like mine, we can meditate on God’s Word. One cannot guarantee that he or she would not be imprisoned for his or her faith. … Without the knowledge of the Word of God, we would succumb to discouragement and depression. … When we meditate on God’s Word, the Lord speaks to us; He leads and guides our lives.”
Abiding in Christ and feasting on His Word had sustained Ugyen even during the darkest days. While he praises God for giving him victory through the weapons of Scripture and prayer, he knows he and other believers will face many more battles because thousands in his country still wait to hear the Good News.
“There are possibilities that many could be imprisoned for sharing the gospel, just like me,” he says. “All they need to know is that the Lord is still in control, and we should never lose heart.”
The Prime Minister said in 2010 that he would ‘personally intervene’ to send more foreign criminals home.
Britain has even made clear it would pay to build new prisons in countries like Nigeria to speed up the process of sending foreign criminals home. Up to £1m has been promised to upgrade Nigerian jails, including a new wing at Kirikiri Prison in Lagos.
But to date little progress has been made. When the coalition was formed there were 11,135 foreign prisoners in UK jails, and this figure has fallen by just three per cent since to 10,786.
Each felon costs an average of around £40,000 a year to keep inside.
Last week it was announced that notorious Liberian warlord Charles Taylor is to serve his 50-year sentence for war crimes in the UK.
A prisoner-transfer agreement was struck with Albania earlier this year to ‘free up space in prisons here and reduce the cost to the British taxpayer’.
It was the first major bilateral prisoner transfer agreement with a country outside the European Union.
There were around 250 Albanians in UK jails in June this year.
But securing an agreement with Nigeria would be seen as a much more significant breakthrough.
Latest figures show there were 534 Nigerian nationals in British jails, 485 men and 49 women.
Nigerians account for one in 20 of all foreign prisoners, putting the country fifth in the league table of nations whose citizens have been jailed in the UK.
Justice Minister Mr. Wright said, “I am clear that more foreign prisoners must serve their sentences in their own countries.
“That is why we are currently working with the Nigerian Government on a compulsory prisoner transfer agreement to increase the number of prisoners who are transferred.
“Legislation allowing Nigeria to enter such an arrangement was passed earlier this year by the Nigerian Parliament. We are now working with them on the text of a final agreement.”
Overflowing jails abroad have made it increasingly difficult to deport prisoners to their own country.
It is argued that by paying for building new jails or making existing ones more ‘comfortable’ so they approach British standards, will be repatriated.
Deal: David Cameron, who promised to help Nigeria improves its jails, hopes to strike a deal with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
Deal: David Cameron, who promised to help Nigeria improves its jails, hopes to strike a deal with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
In April Mr. Cameron said, “When people are sent to prison in the UK we should do everything we can to make sure that if they’re foreign nationals, they are sent back to their country to serve their sentence in a foreign prison.
“And I’m taking action in Government to say look we have strong relationships with all of the countries where these people come from.
“Many are coming from Jamaica, many from Nigeria, many from other countries in Asia.
“We should be using all of the influence we have to sign prisoner transfer agreements with those countries. Even if necessary frankly helping them to build prisons in their own country so we can send the prisoners home.”