A pastor who runs an underground ministry in the Middle East has claimed that a pride of lions prevented Islamic militants from attacking him and other believers.
Pastor Paul Ciniraj, director of Bibles for Mideast, which distributes Scriptures and plants churches in the region, recounted that he was changing his clothes after conducting a baptism service about three weeks ago when the militants began stoning him and his group. He said he sustained severe injuries, so he was brought to the nearest hospital.
According to the pastor, the militants who attacked them found out that he was being treated at a hospital, so he was transferred to another pastor's house in a nearby forested area.
Ciniraj said he was secretly visited by other believers in the forest home, where he stayed in for three weeks.
However, a group of militants armed with steel bars and other weapons was able to reach the house on Easter Sunday while the house owner, Pastor Ayoob, was leading a worship service. He said the militants were able to find the house after they noticed the people who visited him secretly.
The people who were with him at the time was Ayoob, his 80-year-old mother, several children, and a woman who was seven months pregnant.
Ciniraj said they lost all hope, and they thought it was their last moments on earth. They all joined hands in prayer and repeatedly praised Jesus.
"O Lord Jesus! Praise His Holy Name. Completely unexpectedly, a lion ran from the forest, leapt towards the militants, and seized one by the neck," the pastor wrote on the group's website.
"When other combatants tried to attack the lion, two other lions bounded towards them. The terrified militants fled the site, and the lions left us completely alone. Equally astonishing, records show no lions are supposed to live in that forest," he continued.
The pastor said that they left the forest home due to pressure from some officials.
Ciniraj, a convert from Islam, founded the ministry about four decades ago. He said that although Islam remains dominant in the Middle East, "thousands upon thousands of people now secretly believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior."
His ministry establishes house churches in the region under the banner of the nondenominational Assembly of Loving God (ALG) Church.
He said that over 3,000 former Muslims were baptized in many of the ministry's churches in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East during the 21 days of fasting and prayer organized by the ALG from March 13 to April 2.