Thursday, December 15, 2005

"N" ’s Story

I was born into one of the most politically powerful tribes in Afghanistan. My grandfather was a good friend of the king and was himself the governor of northern Afghanistan. My grandfather’s highest hope for my father as he was growing up was that he continue the family tradition of political and religious leadership. But my father wasn’t very interested in religion, and he felt honored when he was one of a few students handpicked to be trained at the prestigious army university. His decision to join the army upset the entire family, but on the day he was to start university my grandfather died, so no one in
the family was there to oppose him.

After he had been at the university for two years, the Soviet army chose some people to go to Russia for more military education. My father and all his classmates were transferred to flight school to become pilots. After finishing his education, my father returned to Afghanistan and married my mother. My mother was the daughter of one of the most powerful people in government at that time.

Soon after my parents’ marriage, Russia gained more influence in the government, and decided to put the people they had trained into positions of power. My father was made the commander of the first military airport. In April of 1978, he and many of the others who trained in Russia started a successful Communist revolution and took over the government. One of my dad’s best friends was killed in the revolution, and to honor his memory my father named me after him when I was born later that year. Two years later my brother was born, and my dad chose a name for him from another of his fallen friends.

A while afterwards another Communist movement started and my father was put under house arrest for two years. After the two years my family was moved to Kandahar when another political faction wanted to use my father as a political symbol. They gave him a job, but no real power.

Yet another revolution happened, and the new group in power sent my dad to study in Russia again. They were afraid to have him in the country because they thought he might try to overthrow them. He studied political science at Lenin University in Moscow. In the first year he was in Russia one of his friends was called back to Afghanistan and killed by the government. My youngest brother was named after that friend. During the year that he was in Russia without us, my father worried that we were in danger, that something like what had happened to his friend would happen to his family. My mother was afraid too, so she kept me at home and taught me herself rather than sending me to school where I could be harmed. In 1985 my father asked us to join him in Russia, where we would be safer. I started school there in Moscow.

In 1990 my family moved back to Afghanistan. Again my dad gained power in a political group, and he became a leader of the air force. He became a
leader of the Defense Ministry. One of the mujahidin (the group that later became the Taliban) wrote to my father asking him to come work with them, to change the government. He refused their offer.

The mujahidin successfully took over the country, and when they did most of the people who had been in power previously ran away from Afghanistan.
Because my dad was from one of the most respected tribes in Afghanistan, he returned to his home city, hoping that fear of his family and tribe would keep others from harming him. Considering his history, he feared that he would be a target, but remained confident that no one would want to defy his family.

I loved to visit my mother’s parents, who lived about 100 km away. When I was 13 I went to stay with my grandparents for a month. After I had only been there for two days someone came to take me back to my parents’ house. I was angry that my vacation was interrupted, and didn’t want to go. When I arrived home I saw a huge crowd gathered around my house. I saw my uncles and thought, “Why are they here?”

My memories from that day are the worst, saddest pictures of my life. I had been brought home to attend the funeral of my entire family. I learned that people had gathered in front of my house at night and killed everyone inside—my father, my mother, and my two little brothers. Worst of all, my parents had desperately wanted to have a daughter, and my mom was pregnant. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. My grief made me crazy. I was sent back to my grandparents’ home, and from that day my grandmother and grandfather became my parents.

Since I was the only one in my family left alive, my uncle was afraid that I was in danger. He took me to Kabul so that I would be safe.

In 1992 the situation in Afghanistan grew even worse, so I went with a younger friend to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. I started studying the martial arts, and as my love for them grew, so did my hatred. I thought that if I grew stronger and more powerful in the martial arts, I could kill whomever I wanted to. The son of one of the previous leaders of Afghanistan started the school I attended in Uzbekistan, hoping to train people who would one day go back and retake power. He encouraged me in my hatred, and told me that one day I would be powerful and could punish the people who had killed my family. I
started counting the days. How much longer until that day when I could finally take power and have my revenge?

After a year the economy in Uzbekistan worsened, so I moved back to Afghanistan. I went to Kabul, and dedicated myself to school, knowing that education would help me gain power. In 1995 I joined the Youth Islamic Group, even though I was not really a Muslim. I was the only one who was brave enough to speak in front of people, so I started being given leadership roles. In my last year of high school I became a vice president of the group. I started reading the Koran and other books about Islam, and daily became more interested in learning about the faith. The former king hoped that the Youth Islamic Group would one day take over the government. The group chose several students to go to university in Egypt, and I was among those selected. They sent me to Pakistan first, and there I was rejected for the university because I am not Pashtu. They saw my past and rejected me. This time in Pakistan was
very difficult for me.

When I went back to Afghanistan the Taliban was gaining strength. I went to Mazar-e-Sharif and registered for law school. The political situation got even worse, so I went to Iran. I sold two of the houses that my family owned to be able to start a shop importing rice from Pakistan. I had a great life in Iran for the five years I lived there. I connected with the previous government of Afghanistan, which had an embassy in Iran. With their help, I opened an office of the Islamic Youth Group.

I read a great deal, studying the lives of strong leaders who threw off their oppressors. I loved reading about Hitler, Nelson Mandela, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Patrice LeMumba. I began to idolize Adolf Hitler. My vision was to become like him, to achieve what he achieved. I learned everything I could about him—I could probably write the definitive book on Hitler, I know so much about him. I think I didn’t even love my father or my best friend as much as I loved Hitler. I wouldn’t smoke, drink alcohol, or have relations with any woman because I wanted to be like him.

When America went into Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001, all the Afghans living outside the country were filled with hope. I went back to Afghanistan thinking that we would finally have democracy. I thought, “With everything happening now, I can really take power. It’s a great opportunity for Afghanistan!” But soon I saw that there was no real change. Everything just stayed the same; they just substituted one person’s name for another. Everyone who had power before still retained their power. The man who killed my family is the leader of the military in north Afghanistan—he has more power now than ever before. My uncle warned me that my existence was a threat to that man, that he would try to kill me because he knew I would stand against him. So I left again, and went back to Iran for two months.

My family in England encouraged me to come to Europe. They paid a smuggler to take me to Turkey. We walked from Tehran to Istanbul, walking for 9 days over the mountains.

In the room where I was staying with a friend, I found an old and torn-apart book. It was the Gospel of Matthew. I read it not because I was interested in it, but because it was the only thing I could find to read in Farsi and I really missed reading. A few things in the book caught my attention. I read that if
anyone slaps your face, you should turn the other cheek. I also read, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Muslims are always swearing that they will do something, but then they don’t. The more I read the more I realized that even though Muslims view Jesus as a prophet, the teachings in the Koran are exactly opposite to what he taught.

After staying in Turkey for a month and a half, I paid a smuggler about $2,500 to take me to Greece. When I arrived in Athens I only had one phone number, and the person I called took me to the Afghan Hotel (an apartment filled with Afghan refugees). I was just planning to stay for as long as it took for my family to find someone to smuggle me to Belgium and then on to Germany. While I was waiting I talked to an Iranian man named Hamid, who also lived in the hotel. I asked him if he would take me to a church. He said, “I will show you, but I will never, never enter that place.” I came to Helping Hands in the afternoon, and the only person there was Mohammed. From the way that he greeted me and talked with me, I felt like he had known me for ages. He was so friendly, and it was really touching. After I had come to Helping Hands several times Mohammed gave me a Farsi New Testament and Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter.

I knew a lot about Islam and the Koran from studying so much and from leading the Islamic group. I knew that Islam is about killing and hatred. Many times in Afghanistan I saw people killed and mutilated in the name of God. When I saw the difference between the two religions, I accepted Christ. I had missed my family for a long time, and when I was around Christians I felt that I was part of a family again. The Christians I met were so open and loving that I felt like I belonged, and I needed that.

My family sent a smuggler to take me to Germany, but I didn’t want to go with him. I knew my family wouldn’t be happy that I became a Christian. I knew they would try to change me. I decided to stay in Athens so that I could study more about the Bible. As my heart grew stronger in faith I realized that I had never felt so good, and that I needed to learn more about God. I thought, “I have this great gift of peace, and I need to share this peace with others. If all the Afghan people felt like I feel now, there will be no more war. All the fighting will end.” That was when I decided I would stay and study more and grow stronger, and then return to Afghanistan instead of going on to another country.

There have been many big changes in my life since I invited Jesus into my life, and am free from the bondage of sin. Also, I feel like I am not alone any more, and I don’t long for my family like I used to. I used to do whatever I wanted to do, but now I know that there is a person that I can trust holding my hand, and he will help me walk in the places that he wants me to go. I have also forgiven the people who killed my family. I hold nothing against them now.

I feel a lot of responsibility toward my people in Afghanistan, and I want to give them the things that I have found. My country has been at war for 25 years. Thousands and thousands of people have been born into war and have grown up in war, and that’s all they know in life. The only thing they know is hatred. I was one of those people, but now I have found love. I believe that for Afghanistan there can only be one solution, only one doctor that can help the country—and that is Jesus Christ. No one else could take away the hatred that fills the country.

My vision is to gather a group of believers unified by the same goal and return to Afghanistan together. We can spread out to different cities, reaching more places for Christ in the country at the same time. I plan to build a church and an orphanage on the family property that I still have in Afghanistan. I want to give all my life, until the last moment that I am here, for God.

If my story has touched you, please pray for Afghanistan. Pray also that God will continue to grow my heart, that the things He has planted there will grow deeper and deeper, stronger and stronger.

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