Whoever has ears, let them hear. Matthew 11:15

Zia Nodrad was a remarkable Afghan Christian who first encountered Jesus by listening to Radio Voice of the Gospel in order to improve his English. He was blind and a highly gifted linguist, fluent in several languages including English, Russian and German. He knew the Quran by heart and even won a gold medal from Saudi Arabia at a Quran recitation contest, when the Communist government sent him to represent Afghanistan.

When Zia first disclosed his interest in the Christian faith it was pointed out to him that this could mean death under sharia. But he replied, “I have counted the cost and am ready to die for Christ, since Christ has already died for me on the Cross.”

He immersed himself deeply in the Word of God and was involved in translating the Bible into his mother tongue, Dari. He was an able leader of other believers (who could not publicly proclaim themselves Christians), encouraging them in their faith and understanding of the Gospel. In 1985 he fled Afghanistan to Pakistan, where he was a pillar and strength to the small Afghan Christian community in exile. In 1988 he was invited by the mujahidin of the Islamist group Hezb-e Islami to discuss ways to help disabled people in the refugee camps. But this was a trap, and he was shot dead by them on 23 March. It was reported that he was cruelly tortured and even had his tongue cut out before he was killed – because he remained faithful to Christ.

Let Him lead the blindfold onward,
Love needs not to know;
Children whom the Father leadeth,
Ask not where to go.
Thou the path be all unknown,
Over moors and mountains lone.
Gerhard Teerstegen (1697-1769)

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.