This book is quite old now, but Haralan Popov’s account of his imprisonment in Tortured for His Faith is very eye opening even today. I first read this book when I was in high school. I remember reading it during the height of the cold war and thinking that the types of torture that Popov endured could happen to me if communism spread through the world. But, after several years of that not happening, we tend to forget what many Christians had to endure. The sad reality is that this is not just a story of what has happened in the past, but what is happening today in many countries. There are many persecuted Christians in our day and age who are enduring the same types of torture Popov endured 50 years ago.
Popov’s account starts with his arrest and initial interrogation. He was brought up on charges of spying for the US against his communist homeland of Bulgaria. He was not a spy, but simply a pastor of a church. This was the communist attempt at purging Christian teaching from their people. They felt that they could not make churches and Christianity illegal without causing an uprising. Therefore, they imprisoned the pastors under charges of treason. After months of torture they were forced to sign documents saying that they were spies.
It is almost unbelievable the things that these pastors endured. At one point he stood for 2 solid weeks while being interrogated. They were given just enough food to sustain life, but not much more than that. In the story he talks of being thrilled to find a blade of grass to eat. People even risked their lives to find weeds and rodents to eat. He did not go into detail, but he described the taste of rats. I can’t imagine that they had any way to cook them. I don’t dare think about how they ate the creatures.
During the interrogation phase of his 14 years of torture, the government could not afford to kill any of the religious prisoners. The pastors would have been seen as martyrs and the communists could not allow that to happen. But once the sentence was levied and the men had “signed” their confessions they were just as likely to be killed as allowed to live.
The political prisoners such as the Christians, were treated as much more of a threat to society and the government than the violent murderers. They were treated much more harshly than the violent prisoners as well.
The book is only 150 pages and is a pretty easy read. It was originally published in 1970, less than a decade after his release. He gives an account of what he was doing for the persecuted believers up to that point.
Though Popov died in 1988 his ministry is still functioning today and is called Door of Hope International.
Tortured for His Faith, Haralan Popov, 1970 (updated most recently in 1980), Zondervan, 146 pages.