On February 29, 1948, Richard Wurmbrand was arrested by the secret police. His crimes? Leading Christian worship and witnessing—both of which were illegal under the atheistic Communist regime of Romania. The inspiring movie Tortured for Christ, presented by The Voice of the Martyrs, is a cinematic retelling of the testimony of VOM founder Pastor Wurmbrand as written in his international bestselling book by the same name. The movie was produced to honor the 50th anniversary of the book’s release, and the DVD will be released on February 19, 2019.
Richard and his wife Sabina were active in Lutheran ministry in Romania during the 1970s Communist takeover of Eastern Europe. They dared to stand up against the tyranny both by speaking against it and by illegally proselytizing their faith to Romanians who struggled under the heavy yoke of the Communist government. When other church leaders succumbed to Communist doctrine at a “Congress of Cults” – a large public gathering of church and government leaders – Richard didn’t back down. His wife even encouraged him.
“If I speak now, you’ll have no husband,” he whispers to his wife in the film.
She responds, “I don’t need a coward for a husband.”
Pastor Wurmbrand took the podium that day and preached the Gospel. Incredibly, he avoided immediate arrest. Perhaps even more incredibly, Russian soldiers were open to the Good News – and many became Christians due to his bold witness. To avoid the confiscation of Bibles, Wurmbrand had special Bibles printed with Karl Marx on the cover. “Marx on the cover, Jesus in the pages,” he says in the film.
Eventually, Wurmbrand’s time ran out. Due to these infractions and his harboring of wanted Christians, Wurmbrand was arrested and put in prison. The Russians assumed he would cut a deal and give them the names of all the Christians, but he refused. He was tortured, beaten, and locked into a solitary confinement cell. In one particularly horrifying incident, he was forced to stand for days in a box surrounded by sharp spikes. Still, he refused to recant his faith or give up the names of fellow believers.
The prison official shouts, “Give me their names!” But pastor Richard Wurmbrand, tied up in a dark-and-dingy Romanian prison torture chamber, remains silent.
His face is bloodied, and his feet scarred from relentless beatings. The guards had offered him a deal: If he hands over the names of Christians to the Communist government, he would get a reduced sentence – perhaps even be freed. But he refuses.
“It’s only a matter of time,” the prison official tells him. “… Be reasonable. Your life belongs to me now.”
A weak Wurmbrand, struggling for breath, responds, “My life is not my own. I belong to Christ.”
While Richard languished in prison for fourteen years, Sabrina spent three years in a labor camp, nearly freezing to death as she and other prisoners worked on the Danube Canal. And yet through it all, neither one of them gave up their faith in Christ. Pastor Wurmbrand was even nicknamed “The Paul of the Iron Curtain” due to his efforts.
The facts may be disturbing, but Wurmbrand’s testimony is powerful. Not only from a Christian standpoint, but because the film realistically portrays the evils of communism. Actually, it barely even depicts the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the suffering of Christians under Communist regimes past and present. Anyone living in free democratic countries needs to see what life actually is like when God is out of the equation.
How many of us would be willing to face a gruesome death for Christ? How many of us would continue praying in a cell, knowing that such an action would result in physical punishment? And how many of us would be filled with so much joy in prison that we would sing hymns and make music with our prison chains – as Wurmbrand did?
Tortured for Christ was filmed entirely in Romania, including the very prison where Wurmbrand endured torture and solitary confinement by the Communists. The dialogue is presented in English, Romanian, and Russian (with English subtitles) to maintain the authenticity of this true story. The film is not rated, but it would be equivalent to PG-13 for adults, teens, and perhaps older children.
Tortured for Christ is an above-average Christian film. Despite being fairly low-budget, there was a great attention to detail and a clear commitment to making the film as authentic as possible. This movie is uniquely effective because it presents Wurmbrand’s story with live action on location, rather than in a documentary interview format. With a powerful message packaged in a realistic production, and with culturally accurate casting using the original languages, this movie will make a lasting impression on all those who watch it.
Tortured for Christ was a book that shocked the nation. Following his release from prison, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand came to America and devoted his life to being a voice for persecuted Christians, proclaiming the trials and testimonies of our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we might be inspired by their examples of bold faith.
In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand tells of his imprisonment for his work with the underground church and introduces the work of Voice of the Martyrs. Fifty years later, the Voice of the Martyrs remains true to its calling to be a voice for persecuted Christians, to serve with them in their time of need and to assist them in their efforts to proclaim the gospel.
If you do not know about Pastor Wurmbrand, please get a copy of the book and/or DVD and visit the VOM website. Also, search for his name on YouTube to hear some of his messages including testimony about his torture he gave to the US Congress after Western Believers literally ransomed him and his family out of communist Romania in the 1960’s. He even took off his shirt during his talk to show them the scars.