A former prime minister of Ethiopia told a crowd of 1,250 today at the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast how he turned from atheism to belief in Christ while imprisoned for 12 years.
Tamrat Layne said he had been “a communist, a violent person, who was worshiping guns.”
Now, Layne talks about his Christian faith to audiences around the country, as he did today at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
“I am a living witness that Jesus, in his spirit, talks,” said Layne, 58, who now lives in Denver with his wife and two children.
Layne was prime minister of Ethiopia from 1991-95.
He said he rose to power, leading guerrilla fighters who believed “freedom comes out of the barrel of the gun.”
Once in power, he found his communist-socialist ideology was a failure and “one big mistake.”
But a political riff developed between him and his best friend, the president.
Layne was put in prison on charges of abuse of power, for which he was innocent, Layne said.
A court convicted him of corruption and embezzlement.
“They conspired against me,” he said.
Layne was kept in solitary confinement. A self-professed atheist, he began studying Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
When he was sick in his fifth year of prison, a nurse slipped him a Christian tract.
That tract proclaimed “Jesus is the only one who can give you a new life.”
Layne said he found himself later on his knees praying, “if that is true and if you’re really there … come to me.”
Layne said Jesus appeared before him for three straight nights, telling him to believe in him and not be afraid.
“After the third night, I gave up,” Layne said. “I said, ‘You’re real, Jesus…. Please do whatever you will in my life.’”
Layne remained in the “horrible place” of prison for seven more years, alone with a small Bible.
“Those years are the years – believe it or not – (that are) for me the most beautiful years in my life,” he said. Layne said he was joyful, at peace and with hope.
Layne drew a standing ovation at the 35th annual prayer breakfast.
Emily Haug said she was impressed by “the fact that he could forgive someone who locked him up in a hole for 12 years.”
“I think I would have gone insane,” said Haug, 27, of Tacoma.
Mark Manning, 29, of Gig Harbor, said Layne’s message was reassuring.
“It reinforces your belief in God and humanity,” Manning said.58,