Four masked gunmen charged into Mohammad Yousuf Bhat’s home on the evening of 1 July 2016, pushed his wife aside and demanded to talk to him. After he stepped forward, the gunmen escorted the 43-year-old father of three outside his home in the Kashmir Valley, India and shot him seven times, killing him. Those who worked with Yousuf describe him as being a fearless, bold and passionate believer who “would not be quiet about Christ”.
In the end, his unwavering faith and evangelism of Kashmiri Muslims in North India, led to his death. Since leaving Islam himself in 1999, Yousuf had known his life could end this way.
Villagers, especially Christians, have become anxious since Yousuf’s murder. They are even afraid to speak of it.
Sharing his testimony
Before his death, Yousuf discussed the Islamists’ efforts to stop the spread of Christianity and the fear this caused among Christians. “In Kashmir, we can see the Islamic leaders start a movement to crush the believers in Kashmir valley, but this book [Bible] changed my life”, he said. “I want to share my testimony of it”.
Despite the dangers, Yousuf boldly shared his faith in big ways. He helped create a disciple-making movement among Muslim converts and distributed thousands of Bibles and copies of the JESUS film.
“It would be fair to say that Muslims have been receptive to the Gospel in Kashmir”, a VOM worker said. “The church grows, and Yousuf was seen by many as the leader of the church in Kashmir”.
The blessing of persecution
After a major earthquake in the region, Yousuf worked with others to provide health and dental care in relief camps. He also helped distribute solar-powered lights to people without electricity and brought clean drinking water to thousands of people.
Such sacrificial acts of service were a reflection of his deep faith ever since he encountered God through the Scriptures and left Islam. Life wasn’t easy after he turned to Christ, but he felt God’s presence.
“I got lots of persecution from my family”, he said. “My son was tortured. My daughter was also tortured by different people. Of course, we get persecuted in body, but inside we are getting so much peace”.
Yousuf was grateful for how these experiences increased his faith and helped him experience the peace of God. Citing Matthew 5:10, he had said the persecution was a blessing.
Before his death, Yousuf knew there were plans to kill him. However, he forgave those who persecuted his family and plotted his death.
“God bless them”, he said. “Our prayer is that God will open their ‘spiritual eyes’. So, we are praying for them”.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Matthew 5:10