The Guard Who Found Islam
Terry Holdbrooks stood watch over prisoners at Gitmo. What he saw made him adopt their faith.
Many Christians — myself included when I was one — have at some time been inspired by the stories of early martyrs whose courage in the face of persecution led to the conversions and baptism even of the soldiers charged with escorting them to their fates.
The archetypes of this story are two biblical narratives: one of Paul almost appearing to almost convert his judge, king Agrippa by his testimony; and another of the Philippian jailor of Paul and Silas who was baptized after hearing how happily Paul and Silas sang in their prison cell, and subsequently on hearing them happily announce that they had not taken their chance to run away when an earthquake shattered open their cell door and shook off their chains.
Thereafter Christian writers inspired pride in the astonishing examples of other martyrs that likewise led at times to the conversions even of their prison guards. Polycarp’s military escort were so moved by Polycarp’s apparent piety and good character that they “repented” that they had had anything to do with his arrest:
After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place. (Fox’s Book of Martyrs)
Some Christians look on stories like these as signs or evidence, even proofs, of the truly divine source of their faith.
So it is instructive to read in the current issue of Newsweek the story headlined as at the beginning of this post.
Interested readers can access the full story by Dan Ephron online