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22 November 2017

Finding Grace

One Syrian couple’s journey to faith

“Mervan”, a Kurdish school-teacher from Syria, tells the story of how he and his wife “Sherin” found faith in Christ – and how they have suffered for His Name

I grew up in a simple but devout Muslim family. My grandfather was a sheikh (cleric) in the mosque. He obliged us to attend mosque every Friday to listen to the religious sermon. I had questions regarding many things including: why all this hatred towards Christians; the accusation of Jews and Christians being infidels; and why the burning of the Bible and killing of Christians? Listening to the religious history, I had great internal conflict: does this prophet deserve to be followed? As a result of this I thought about atheism, for I started to lose faith in Islam – it calls for hatred and malice, so where is the true God?

 

The secret preacher 

On one occasion one of my friends who was an atheist handed me the Bible and said read and see how the Jews killed many nations and kicked them out of their homes to usurp them, in addition to the fables found in the Bible. I took the Bible in 1999, and started reading it from Genesis. I enjoyed the chronology of events, which does not resemble the Quran that was written haphazardly. 

For a while I stopped reading the Bible, but then I had a recurrent dream of a person sitting on my chest trying to strangle me and I used to wake up scared and shaken. When I started reading the Bible again that terrifying dream stopped and I felt peace. I don’t know where the peace came from. I read the whole book but I had many queries and I prayed in my heart: “O Lord, if this book is not fake, send me means by which to understand, and especially the verses that speak about the deity of Christ.” 

Soon after, God answered my prayer and by chance I met a preacher, who ran a school bookstore. Actually he was trying to secretly distribute the Bible. I entered the bookstore to buy a few resources and we became friends and after a while he gave me the Bible and I told him that I had read it twice but I had questions. He introduced me to a doctor who helped me answer these questions; I used to visit him daily, asking him questions about the crucifixion, sin and Christ’s deity. These visits continued for one year, during which I used to compare between the Quran and the Bible. After long research and comparison I made my decision to secretly follow Christ as my Lord and Saviour. 

 

“I will not give up Jesus Christ, nor will I give you up”

In the year 2000 I married Sherin who was from a very religious family. She wore the hijab, and went  the mosque during Ramadan. I said to myself I will tell her later about the true God, the one revealed in Jesus Christ. Later on I started to declare to my wife that I follow Jesus and attend church. She could not understand me initially, and she would ask me, “Don’t you fear going to hell?” And here many problems started. 

Three months after telling my wife about Jesus she asked me for a divorce, or to give up my new faith in Christ. I told her I will not give up Jesus Christ, nor will I give you up, for Jesus loved you and me, and He died for us. I did not stop telling her how Islam and Muhammad disfigured the image of the true God. I told her how I accepted Jesus after a long search and finding evidence. I had given her the books and asked her to compare for herself and she started reading and researching. 

In 2001 she fell pregnant and decided to go with me to church. When her family heard about that they came to our house and assaulted her for going to church and they insulted me with swearing and they ripped all the Bibles and threw them on the street. As a result of the assault, Sherin miscarried. 

Later, when she understood the facts of Islam, she decided to become a Christian.

 

Outcasts for Christ, facing death

My father-in-law brought the cleric from the mosque to convince us to renounce our new faith and come back to Islam or otherwise he will have to apply the religious law of the death penalty. We spent three hours in a vicious discussion: he speaking about Islam and me trying to explain to him that this religion is not from God, and that Christ is God who appeared in the flesh, who died on the cross and rose from death to give us eternal life. He was trying to prove to me that Muhammad is the prophet of God and that I have to return to Islam or as an apostate I would be killed according to sharia law. At the end of the discussion he could not convince me because I had a great sum of information and evidence and I told him I do not fear death, and I trust my God to protect me. He was furious and left the house and told others that they should be wary of me as an apostate. He also warned them not to accept me in their homes or society, and to give me a short time to return to Islam or be killed. 

Our families started to pressure us and they kicked us out of our home. We moved to another place in the same city, but the threats continued. We became socially rejected and they cut all ties with us; they would not allow my wife to attend her mother’s funeral when she died. I also used to endure threats from my colleagues at work because they heard of my faith and they would neither listen nor sit with me. As a result I used to change from school to school, from one living place to another, because our lives were threatened, for society had rejected our faith. My children also used to fear at school because their fellow students used to call them apostates and told them “you will end up in hell.” 

 

Fleeing through the flames of war

During the Syrian civil war my father-in-law joined these terrorist groups and he started sending us threats that he would slaughter us and our children, according to Islamic law, if we do not come back to Islam. Once, he attacked our home set it on fire, but we managed to escape. Then he sent us a message saying that he would capture us wherever we are and cut our throats as an example for anyone who would commit apostasy. As my wife’s uncle was looking for us, no other option remained but to leave Syria for another safe territory. My wife wore Islamic dress and we escaped that way to another country. 

No matter what happens to us, and no matter how much we suffer, we will never renounce our faith in Christ because we found grace and are sure of eternity.