My Testimony for Christ

I was born in Iraq - Baghdad in 1967 of an Assyrian Orthodox family. The Arabs call this year the year of disappointment because they lost the war against Israel. When I was only 40 days old my mother (an Orthodox Christian) took me to the church and had me baptized as a Christian-born boy and as she had done earlier with all my brothers and sisters! When I was two years old my Father decided to move our family to southern Iraq to the city of Basra. Due to some political reasons I cannot tell you why my father decided to embrace Islam and force it on the family. And he also changed our names and identification cards to Islamic status.

So I grew up being a Muslim. In the south where there are very few Christians. I was in love with the Qur'an throughout my childhood to the extent that I used to wait for the Qur'an Tartile on TV and started Tartile along with it! (Tartile is the way Muslims sing the Qur'an to make it more effective, and it was made mandatory by Mohammed on each Muslim). My mother used to watch me and just laugh looking at this seven year old sheik! We had quranic verses all over our house and also had drawings of Imam Ali and his son Abaas. I was fascinated with the character of Imam Ali and how wise and strong he used to be and believed so totally. That he could hear whomever prays to him and ask him for a miracle! Being a Shi'a Muslim it was my duty to follow in his steps and believe his teaching of Islam as well as trying my best to rebuke any one who thought less of him in any way.

At the age of eleven my father died unexpectedly. I was devastated. I could not understand why that happened. I kept asking Imam Ali why that happened. I needed an explanation, but there was no answer to my prayers. After six months my mother decided to move back to Baghdad. I did not want to, I could not possibly leave my cousins, my uncles and aunts, my friends and school and my cat, of course! To my shock, my mother told me that all these people that I held to be my family are definitely not my family, they are only superficial cousins, uncles, aunts, and even the two brothers and a sister that I had been told are my half-brothers and sister from another women that my father had been married to and who had passed away before he married my mother were phony! The only things that linked us were the legal ID papers and the many years of a huge deception. In Baghdad my mother hastened to introduce us to our new family. She learned that her father had passed away years ago. She was so sad because he had not approved of her departure to the south but she had to go on with it. Suddenly I started to see new cousins, aunts, all kind of relatives and friends. And I say "I" because I was the only one who was confused about that mess since I was the younger in my family and did not have any idea about what had happened in the past. My mother had me live with one of her sister's family for me to adjust myself to the new reality. I was in a state of resentment and anger since they wanted me to learn their language (Assyrian) which I refused for many years to come because I was in love with the Arabic language. And they tried to take me with them to their church and to their parties and events. Finally, after years, I accepted them as my relatives. But I decided to be separated from them and their beliefs which I considered heresy.

I continued going to school as a young Muslim man and was a straight A student in all materials related to Islam. I used to prepare my questions at home. And whenever I saw a Christian fellow I would attack him with it. I felt pretty good when I waited for an answer and get NOTHING but a red face and a sweaty hand shake of "Good bye!" Then I started to go to the churches and sit in the Bible study and ask these questions to the priests. And sure enough, I had the same impact over and over again. My faith in Islam was increasing and my hatred towards Christianity was increasing even more! Even to the point that one day I was coming home from long day: It was about 8:00 p.m. and my sisters and Mom had the Jesus film on video and they were watching. I looked as I am coming in and Peter was saying to Jesus "Lord" in Arabic "God". I heard that and I was so angry I started to yell at my mother and sisters and pulled the film out of the video, broke it in half and also broke all the pictures we had of Jesus or Mary and threw them away. My mother was crying so bad, and everybody was mad at me. It took me three days to be able to talk with my mother again!

The civil war was intensifying in Lebanon and the government wanted to send some Iraqi soldiers to help drive the Jews out of the South of Lebanon. Since I hated the Jews even more than the Christian, I went to the embassy of Lebanon in Baghdad and registered my name, and when they asked me to write a statement I wrote "I AM COMMITTED TO GO TO LEBANON TO KILL THE STINKING JEWS" but the security guard secretly called me out to the side and said "It is not about the Jews, you are going to fight the Syrians!" So when I learn that my journey is to kill other Muslims like me I changed my mind!

By then I got my first book published and was so happy about it! I became a rather popular among my friends in school and the radio asked me to write some things for them. When I expressed my desire to write for children the TV station send after me. Six months later I was granted a scholarship to join the Academy of Arts in Baghdad. That was a 180 degree change in my direction. Though I was a writer and a poet, I wanted to study what is called the science of Qur'an. The war against Iran was over after 8 long years and everybody was happy. We used to dance in the streets until sun rise celebrating the birth of peace in the land! Everything seemed good and settled. But I had a big void inside my soul. Two years went by and I was still looking for an answer to the many questions boiling in my head.

Now I was asking if there is really God why would he allow all that to happen to me to my family. What I am I? Am I a Muslim as I was told and as I grew up? Or Am I Christian as I was born and baptized? Am I an Arab or an Assyrian? Am I human or an animal to be treated and betrayed like this?! The country I once loved was no longer home to me. I wanted to find my own self since I lost it in Iraq.

In August 1, 1990 I left Iraq to Turkey with no other goal than looking for my own freedom and establish a new life. Seven hours later, Iraq invaded Kuwait. I was already in Istanbul and that was the first sign of salvation to me! All telephone lines where cut off to and from Iraq. I would go without contact with my family for the next year and a half. Bit by bit my money started to decrease. I began to move from one city to another trying to find a job to maintain a living. I slept under a tree in Ankara for three days after I had sold all my positions and had no more to sell. I became ill and thought I could die any time. Then I started to knock at the doors of various embassies. It does not matter where to go I thought, anywhere will be better than Iraq and Turkey! No one accepted me. Even the U.N. office rejected my application as a refugee! I was in big trouble. If the Turkish police were to catch me, they would return me to Iraq because my visa had expired long ago. And that would mean death! It seemed to me that there was no other choice but to go to Syria though the Syrian council advised me not to do so!

I took the bus to the city of Antakya and from there, I was hoping, to get to Halab. Through these two months in Turkey I started to be more open to listen to Christ's voice inside me though I have to admit that at one point I stopped at the mosque in Ankara and read the Qur'an. But suddenly that book lost its effect on me and did not attract in this time of trouble, nor ever since. In the bus to Antakya I met a Turkish young Muslim man who became a dear friend to me. He took me to the Catholic church in Antakya and there I met Fr. Francisco and a nun by the name of Barbara. They provided great help and comfort to me during the three month that I spent in Antakya. Barbara gave me the first Arabic Bible and asked to read it. I used to read the Bible every night before bed in Fr. Francisco house (he opened his house for me to the last day!). And the church used to pray for me every single night and ask God to open the doors for me to go to some country so I might find peace and freedom. I started to ask Jesus to bless me and I apologized to him for my foolishness in the past. And one day I was alone in the house and was very depressed because of the rejection from the U.N. regarding my case and I had been away from my family back home with no communication at all. I shut off all lights and went to sleep. I woke up and it was so dark to the point that I couldn't see my own hands! I was walking, trying to find my way, I opened the door and stepped down but I fell on my knees and hurt myself very painfully. In the midst of all that darkness and pain a strong hand grabbed me at my elbow and sure enough that was Fr. Francisco. He helped me stand up and put his hand over my shoulder and said "Don't you worry, I will take care of you. You will be fine!" I woke up being like crazy and was all sweaty. I rushed to Father Francisco bed room but he was still out. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had been dreaming! I went back to bed after a short prayer and saw a second dream. This time it was Jesus as I saw him in the Jesus film years ago and I had trashed his video. He was hanging on the cross, the nails were in his hands and feet, yet he was smiling at me and talking to me. Though he was dying he seemed so beautiful. The cross was huge and I seemed like a little boy. My neck was falling back trying to see the whole face of Jesus and suddenly a huge big circle of light came from above the cross and down upon me! I woke up again. It was sun rise. This time I was really sweaty!

In the morning I rushed to Barbara to let her know. But an old lady who used to like me and fix sandwiches every now and then called me and told me that she also saw a dream concerning me. She said that she saw me riding on a white horse and fly away to safety! One week later the American Embassy called me while I was working in the church construction and they approved my visa to the U.S.!! That by itself was a miracle because my visa in Turkey was expired long ago and I was staying illegal. Besids, the Iraqi Army was still in Kuwait and the problems were rising towards a certain war between Iraq and the U.S. Many people tried to get a visa to America but could not. God answered the prayers of the church and accepted me as one of his children. Since then I started to have a personal relationship with Christ and became new creation in him. I think it is important for any human to know his God and savior and have a true experience with him.

I was born in Baghdad in which Abu Jafar Al-Mansour built and commanded his engineers to pour oil in the foundation and set it on fire so he can see and enjoy his schematic in real life. I thought that was such a stupid idea and I think the Khalifa just announced the death of the city before its birth! But God took me away to Antakya a city where the people of God were FIRST CALLED CHRISTIANS. By that God took away my curse and gave me new life in him. My prayer is that he might increase and I might decrease so I can live for him fully to the end of my earthly life. "FOR YOU WERE AS SHEEP GOING ASTRAY, BUT ARE NOW RETURNED UNTO THE SHEPHERD AND BISHOP OF YOUR SOULS." 1 Peter 2:25 - Amen.

Abdullah Al-Ashoery

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