Meeting Jesus at Abu Ghraib

Joshua Casteel (1979-2012) grew up in an evangelical household and was raised as a patriotic Christian. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves at age 17, and later enrolled at West Point.

Joshua was trained as an Arabic translator and deployed with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion to Abu Ghraib prison working as an interrogator from June 2004 to January 2005.

It was at Abu Ghraib that Joshua would have a crisis of conscience while interrogating a Muslim who then questioned him about his faith in Jesus.

Soon after being confronted with the non-violent teachings of Jesus by a self-proclaimed jihadist, Joshua applied for conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged in May 2005.

Joshua labored internationally for several years as a subversive voice against war and violence. He served on IVAW’s Board of Directors in 2006.

Joshua authored the book Letters from Abu Ghraib (2008). Some of his essays on war and Christian ethics have become part of course curricula at Wheaton College and Duke Divinity School.

Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), present in his lungs, liver, spine and adrenals. He believed his illness was a result of his service in Iraq where he was exposed to the toxic fumes from the burn pits in Abu Ghraib.

Joshua Eric Casteel died on August 25, 2012.

I was deeply saddened to discover the news of Joshua’s death at the end of last year. I felt compelled to share his testimony with you.

The following video is an excerpt of Joshua’s story from the documentary Soldiers of Conscience (2008). May Joshua’s life and work be remembered and celebrated in the Kingdom revolution. Until Kingdom comes!

What do you think about the teachings of Jesus?  Does Joshua’s story challenge you to follow Jesus as a peacemaker?  Please share Joshua’s story if you have been touched by his testimony of Christ and the Kingdom.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

4 responses to “Meeting Jesus at Abu Ghraib

  • Surit

    Johnny Cash once sang of ‘…a flower of light in a field of darkness’. Thank you David for sharing this.

  • Jonathan Thyng

    Christ Jesus interrupted my career goals while I was a Military Intel Analyst in the Reserves going to college full-time for a career in politics as a foreign relations advisor to make this the best country in the world.

    The Lord flipped my world upside down and exposed me as to who I was truly serving. (John 17) We are in the world but are not to be of it. Our battlegrounds are in the world but our home is not of this world. Our battles are (we wrestle) not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

    I then wanted to get out of the military as a conscientious objector but the fellowship I had was to remain as I was called because it wasn’t by accident that I was where I was when He called me. I had to rely on the Lord that He would protect me when I went overseas to support our missions in the Middle East. Once my agreement expired, I didn’t re-enlist even though I was tempted with a promotion and greater career opportunities.

    I also cut all of my association with politics as it was not an easy thing to do. I had developed years of work on establishing my network to DC by volunteering and interning.

    I dropped my major in political science after I had completed all of my basic cores. Instead, I completed my other major in economics from a different college.

    I thank the Lord for His grace and His life!

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