Paul Popov is the CEO of Door of Hope International. They are a voice and a helping hand to persecuted Christians worldwide. When he was five years old (in 1948), his father, Haralan Popov, a prominent Protestant minister, was brutally taken from his family by the KGB and arrested on false charges of being a ‘spy for America’. Paul, with his family, were branded as ‘enemies of the state’.
As Paul begins his story, he noted how the communists were taking control of the most important positions in Bulgaria with the same thing happening to all of the Eastern Bloc states. Paul noted that the communists wanted to control not only civil society in general, but also the church. Protestant church leaders in particular were critical in terms of disseminating their communist ideology.
Paul’s father and uncle were offered certain privileges and the chance to work with the communists but they would have none of it. They refused to work out a church/state solution that would have them show loyalty to the Bulgarian Communist Party. They believed that they had a duty to fulfill in spreading the Word of God so they wanted to refrain from being involved in political activity.
The result is that on July 24th, 1948 at 4am, the doorbell rang at the Popov residence. It was the secret police together with an officer from the regular militia. They ransacked the house, looking for incriminating evidence that could be used in a ‘show trial’ that they were preparing for.
Haralan was accused of being a spy and told he was being taken for a short period of questioning that ended up lasting 15 years. Paul has had an opportunity to look through Bulgarian secret police files from the era and they indicate that it was predetermined where everyone would sit at the trial and what the sentences would be for the prisoners.
During his captivity, Haralan suffered Stalin-style interrogation tactics. Prisoners had to stand up 24 hours per day while keeping their faces 8 inches from a bright white wall with eyes open. Closing of the eyes was not allowed. 3 guards took 8 hour shifts watching over the prisoners. They were given as little soup and bread as possible to maintain life. Upon collapsing, a doctor would be brought in to revive the prisoner. The idea was to break their will yet keep them looking good enough for the trial. Death was not allowed because this would make martyrs of the Protestant pastors.
Eventually the collapsing became more frequent for Haralan. He was ordered to receive rest but the rest periods were short because during this time he was required to write his life story.
The common phrase heard over and over from the communists was, ‘Conform to us.’ Paul indicated that they wanted prisoners to admit that they were spies for America and England. That way the foreign press would have no reason to believe that those on trial were being persecuted because they were Christians or because of the Bible.
This Crosstalk has much more to present, and for an even more detailed account, you’re encouraged to order a copy of ‘Tortured for His Faith’ via the information listed below.
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