Testimony of Athanasios
I was born to Muslim parents, and I’m a descendent of ‘Ali Ibn Abu Talib the cousin of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, and the fourth Caliph (i.e., “ruler”). At an early age, I was one of the Muslims believers who performed all of the religious duties, from praying to fasting and everything in between.
I was planning to be an Imam of a mosque, like my grandfather. I started to study the Fiqh and the Quran (Islamic sacred scripture), but after some time, I felt bored reading similar books and essays. I recognised that there are a lot of differences in Islam. For instance, in Iraq (my country), there are a lot of Shia, and it was strange for a Sunni like me to know that there was someone different from his faith but claiming to be Muslim, so I decided to study the various Islamic schools of thought.
After a lot of reading in this field, I become more familiar with Mu’tazilah than any other school of thought. Mu’tazilah is more reasonable than the rest of the schools, in the sense that it involves argumentation and philosophy. I began to be open-minded for the first time in my life. Gradually, I decided to study other religions. I tried to preach the Quran, starting in Da’wa (i.e, evangelism) with some young Christians, using my good knowledge of the argumentative tools, and I created many faith problems for them. Because of this, their families appealed to the priest of their church and asked him to invite me to visit him. Arguing with him was very difficult for me because he always answered all my doubting questions. After I had known him a year, he died, but he had changed a lot of my thoughts about Christianity. However, I still didn’t believe in it.
After this, I started to see Islam with new eyes, seeing the contradictions in it, studying it in comparison to Christianity. One night in a dream, I saw a vision of a man with a beard talking to me: “Son“, he asked me, “why do you attack my sheep?”
I replied, “Who are you sir?”
He answered, “Jesus Christ”
So, I answered his question, “I’m not attacking your sheep, sir, I’m trying to bring your lost sheep back to the straight path.” He said, “You are the one who is lost; I’m the straight path.”
I woke up asking myself a number of questions: Did I really see Jesus? He said that I’m lost. What did he mean? Does that mean that the Christian is right and that I’m on the wrong path? But it was only a dream. Still, Mohammed said in one of his Hadith that if you see a prophet in a dream, you see him truly because Satan could not act like a prophet in a vision. Obey him, and follow what he says. That is what Mohammed said.
After some time being a little confused, I left the two religions and became a non-believer. Around that time, my father (a high-ranking officer) died in a car accident, which we assumed was a natural accident. So, I kept carrying on with my life, and because I had inherited from my father a good fortune, I was able to do a lot of wicked things – wasting money on sex, alcohol, drugs, whatever I could find for pleasure.
After a period of time, I heard again a voice (which I knew was Jesus’s voice), saying, “Run away from your country NOW!” This voice was firm with me, so I woke up, I bagged my things, and in a few hours, I was outside Iraq and heading for my mother’s home in another Arabic country. When I was in the airplane (that was 1990, and Iraq was not under the siege), I began to doubt my actions and started to blame myself for the stupid thing I was doing. But then, I told myself, “Well, let’s have an early vacation. I can at least thank Jesus for that”. And I smiled at the evil thoughts about what I was going to do for pleasure on my trip.
When I landed in the Arabic country that I was travelling to, I went to my grandfather’s house. There, I called my mother back in Iraq saying, “Mom, don’t worry – I’m visiting here for a while, and then, I’ll return home”. She replied, “Don’t ever think about coming back – there was a police unit seeking you!” Knowing that I had never broken the law or even been involved in any political opposition, I answered in shock, “What??!! What you are talking about?!” She said, “They were seeking some military documents that they think that your father hid, and for this (they had told her), he was assassinated. Thank God that you left-they thought that you had the documents. They took your brothers (from another mother), too, to investigate them”. [Note: My mother was protected during all of this because she was an Arabic journalist working with her country’s embassy, so nobody could hurt her or arrest her for investigation without permission from the ministry of foreign affairs.]
I was shocked. I felt dizzy. I could not imagine what would happen! But if I were there in Iraq, they would torture me to confess what I had not done, and maybe they would kill me. What an unexpected danger I had escaped from! I had never imagined that I would have to flee for my life. I had never had a thought that I could ever be in such danger. Who could have known such a future for me?! God alone could have known it! So, was Jesus God?!! I really became confused, shocked, dizzy, and – in this condition – passed out. After a few hours, I woke up from my comatose state, and I start to pray to God, sincerely asking Him to show me the way, the truth. After that, I dreamed again of Jesus, and he said to me, “I love you. Why you don’t love me likewise? Come to me because I have a plan for you”. I woke up crying. He was looking for me, and I was trying to escape from him. He wanted me to be with him, and I was not. He had saved me from the hands of the Iraqi torture machine, so I told him, “I’m coming to you, Jesus, even if this costs me my life”. At that moment, He entered my life, and become my Lord and Saviour. I really was washed in His pure blood, becoming another person, I experienced his joy and peace, and became one reborn in His grace.
The only real worry that I had, however, was about my means of living, for I had left my wealth behind me, and unfortunately for me, the Iraqi authorities had confiscated all my property. But the Lord showed me that I couldn’t rely upon material wealth anyway, for a few months later, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the Iraqi Dinar, which was officially 3 dollars and in the black market merely 30 cents, fell enormously in value. Most of the wealth that I had inherited from my father had been in Iraqi currency, and I had it in the bank while I was living in Iraq. If I had still been living in Iraq during the Gulf crisis, then instead of having $300,000, I would have had only $300!! Thanks be to Jesus for showing me that I can only depend upon him, not upon worldly things.
From this, I derive comfort. After a long period of time in my mother’s country, where I was witnessing for Jesus, extremist Islamic groups there discovered my apostasy from Islam. They held a faith court about me, and commanded me to repent and renew my faith in Islam, or they would kill me for being a Murtadd (i.e., “apostate”). They gave me two days to make my decision. I tried to go to the police for protection, but the police arrested me for inciting activities against Islam and disturbing community security. They put me in jail and started to investigate me, asking about other converts and about missionaries. I was lucky that I had not been baptized yet because they emphasised the following questions: “Have you ever been baptized?!” “Who baptized you?!” “Which church do you attend?!” “Who evangelized you?!” My being a foreigner helped me, for they eventually released me and commanded me to leave the county, giving me only a very short period in which to do so. God provided me a visa to a safe country, and I left my mother’s country within the time they had demanded.
I’m seeking asylum now in a safe country, so please pray for me to get asylum – and pray for my mother, too, for she is still a Muslim, and I don’t know when I will ever see her again. Unfortunately, I’m her only son, and I was her only financial source till I left. May God bless you, and guide you to His truth.
P.S.: Update, three years later: After many court trials, and having suffered rejections in several countries in my request for asylum as a religious refugee, I finally live now in a safe place the Lord provided for me.