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Christians abducted by Islamists tell stunning escape story

Three Christians working with Bibles4Mideast who were reported missing a week ago have been reunited with their coworkers and are telling a stunning story of abduction and threats and even a mysterious tunnel escape from a locked basement prison and two days’ walk across the desert to safety.

Pastor Paul Ciniraj, the director of Bibles4Mideast, sent WND a report on the return of Pastors Stephan and Samuel and Evangelist James on Monday evening in the Middle East.

WND reported a week ago that the three were attacked and beaten by “Muslim extremists” and then disappeared after they began to be suspicious over their safety in a hospital and asked to be discharged.

The members of the organization that delivers Bibles to underground house churches at various locations in 17 countries in the Middle East, a region entirely dominated at this point by Islam, reportedly got into a taxi en route home, then vanished.

The ministry, which for security reasons does not disclose its exact locations and operations, said on Monday the escape by the three men was miraculous.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

They were tired and weak because of food and sleep deprivation and their long walk across the desert.

But they described how they had been returning from a worship service June 12 when they were accosted and attacked.

“Extremists jumped on us with iron pipes and stickers, took the Bibles from our hands by force, [tore them and threw them away].”

Then “somebody started beating us.”

The attackers were distracted when a bus of travelers stopped nearby, and those rescuers took the three to the hospital.

There, however, the missionaries were suspicious of what was happening and asked to be discharged.

They then hired a taxi, a “fake,” called that because they are unlicensed.

“There were two other passengers also inside the taxi. But when [the] car moved, they [pointed a] revolver toward us,” the three reported.

At that point they were bound and gagged, assaulted again and locked in a cellar that had the odor of dead bodies.

There was only one door, and “We thought our death is near.”

But “after three or four days,” they saw a light spread over the room and sensed “costly perfume.”

“While we were praying we saw a small creature was going through a small hole. We got a nail from the wall and tried to make the hole bigger. We felt there would be … some chance for us to escape. So we [dug] the hole deeper and bigger. And we saw a small door opening to a narrow passage,” they said.

One hundred meters into the tunnel, it opened up into the desert outside the terrorists’ compound, they said.

In the moonlight, they started following a large bird, whether eagle or falcon, they didn’t know.

“More than 42 hours we walked through the desert. It was very hot. Temperature was … above 45°C (113 °F) and [windy],” they wrote in the report.

They rested during the second night, and in the morning, they saw a house and knocked on the door.

“Our fellow missionaries opened the door and were astonished seeing us. We embraced together and rejoiced in our Lord,” they said.

WND had reported earlier that ministry officials had searched the trio’s route, nearby hospitals and even airports.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”