Notes from Prison

12. Journey’s End

12. Journey’s End

This is the twelfth and last of a series of articles by Mojtaba Hosseini, an Iranian convert to Christianity who spent more than three years in prison in the southern city of Shiraz because of his membership of a house-church. Mojtaba’s first note from prison explained his journey to faith and the first of his two subsequent arrests; his second detailed his long interrogation; his third explained the desperation and loneliness of solitary confinement and his fourth described some of the dreams and visions he had in solitary. His fifth note described his court hearing, his sixth his first moments in prison, and his seventh his emotions in the moments and days after his release on bail. In his eighth note Mojtaba recounted his year-long trial; his ninth explained living in the constant expectation of re-arrest; and his tenth saw that long-anticipated day arrive. In his eleventh note, Mojtaba recounted an unexpected friendship in prison; and in this final note, Mojtaba talks us through his transfer to the public prison, life there, and his journey since.

So we arrived at the public prison, with a capacity of 3,000 but a population of 8,000, and known for both violence and chaos. 

I had a lot of fear and apprehension in my heart, a feeling like stepping into a dark forest and considering the thousands of dangers I would meet. I took comfort from the words of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

“Oh, Good Shepherd, be with us and keep us safe,” I prayed. I put my hope in the one for whom even darkness is not dark; even night is as bright as day. Wherever I may go, I knew He would take my hand.

From the very first moment in that place, everything was so strange that it was as though I had entered an entirely new world. The atmosphere was so full of fear, humiliation, anxiety, unkindness, and anger that it felt as though you inhaled these emotions with every breath. 

A huge crowd of prisoners was waiting in the yard to be transferred to their respective wards; the prison was so large that prisoners were transported by bus. 

After the prison officers had noted down our details and the “crime” for which we had been brought to this place, we also waited for our transfer. 

Difficult to breathe

A bus arrived, but the number of prisoners waiting there was so much greater than the capacity of the bus. Nevertheless, and incredibly – I couldn’t believe what was happening at first – the soldiers pushed every single one of us into the bus, while shouting at us and insulting us.

Every seat was full; some people even had to share. There was not a single empty space on the bus; not even in the aisle. We were crammed together so tightly that it was difficult to breathe, and this sense of claustrophobia was only enhanced by the bars over the windows and the fact each prisoner was shackled to another.

My hands were already extremely sore and bruised because of the shackles, but it wasn’t only my body that felt squeezed; inside, too, my heart felt squeezed as I considered the plight of my fellow prisoners.

It seemed as though from the point of the ruthless prison guards, we prisoners weren’t even human; we were no better than animals in their eyes. Otherwise, they surely wouldn’t have treated us so badly. I found solace in considering that my God had also been insulted and humiliated, treated like a worthless lamb to be slaughtered, and yet now He is seated on the throne, King of Kings, Saviour of the world, and He calls me His son.

But these other prisoners were completely lost and broken, sick and oppressed people, who needed the salvation and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. “O God, our Good Shepherd, come and find and save these lost souls!” I prayed.

It was clear that in this place prisoners were viewed as completely worthless. During the years I spent there, I saw this attitude displayed constantly, experiencing it both personally and in the way other prisoners were treated.

And as the grief and brokenness of the cruelty of that place welled up in my heart, so too did Christ’s compassion and kindness for other prisoners. Sometimes God would give me the strength to smile in that harsh environment, or to comfort someone. Sometimes I would surprise other prisoners with a kind word or generous act, so out of keeping with the environment.

There was even a saying among the prisoners that “in this place, even deer don’t breastfeed their babies”, so love was a strange thing there, and Christ’s love became like a fragrance that permeated the prison.

Above all, the message of the gospel of Christ shone like a light in the darkness and transformed the souls of many prisoners who had been weighed down with wickedness and guilt. God’s mercy poured down like rain in the desert in the hearts of these condemned men, and brought hope.

And to be able to be the mouthpiece of God in that place, telling sinners they were forgiven, or being the hand on a sad shoulder and telling them not to fear because God was with them; to manifest God’s love where it was most needed – hundreds of times – was such an honour.

An ongoing journey

I spent three years of my life in that place – from the age of 24 until I was 27 – and I witnessed God’s faithfulness there every day.

And the stories and testimonies from those days not only encourage and strengthen my soul; I know they also have this impact on the hundreds of other believers who hear them.

I can only describe those days as a long journey but one that I experienced with Christ, who himself was persecuted; and all the wounds I experienced along the way found their meaning in the wounds he experienced, and this brought healing not only to me, but also to others.

I also held on to the great truth of knowing that he rose from the dead, and the victory is his, and that because of this we know where our journey will end. For now, my journey and suffering goes on; after my release from prison, I was forced to leave my country, because after two arrests not only my Christian activities but also normal life became impossible.

Being a refugee was incredibly difficult, far away from family and friends and feeling homesick in a foreign land, with a new culture and language, and having to adapt to a new way of life.

After three years in prison and then forced migration, my journey was certainly far from easy; I spent many days in depression and different struggles. But one day, in prayer, I heard a whisper in my heart: “I know your suffering and pain, but you haven’t had to give up your life.”

And in this moment I knew God wasn’t asking me to die, but reminding me of the joy of my salvation and the new life He had given me, to help me not to live as a victim but as an heir and child of my Heavenly Father.

So now, years later, I, Mojtaba, still declare that your name, my dear Lord Jesus Christ, be gloried forever, that you are the living God who loved me and gave your life for my sins on that Cross, to share with me a new and eternal life and to share your very self.

I am forever thankful to you. 


Mojtaba now lives in the UK, where he is training for ordination in the Church of England.

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