"R" ’s Testimony, March 2002-03-28
I am from Iraq, but from the time I was six years old, I have lived as a refugee in Iran. My father was a Kurdish rebel. I lived in Iran for 29 years. My wife is Iranian. My three children are Iranian. But when I asked the Iranian government for citizenship, I was rejected. I asked them to issue me a passport, but they wouldn’t. I wasn’t even allowed to leave the country and travel. I couldn’t buy anything, like a house or a car, because I was not allowed to work. I had to go to the police and re-register as a refugee, every three months…for 29 years! I even tried to go to Iraq to get an ID card, but the Iraqi officials told me that I was not registered in Iraq, that they had no idea who I was. I have no nationality.
I wanted to be able to support my family, so I left Iran illegally. I walked, shared a horse, even paid a smuggler, and finally got to Greece.
When I came to Athens, I was looking for a place to eat, a place that provided food for refugees. I slept in the park. My friends I met there told me about a place they called “The American Church” (but I found out later it is called Helping Hands). They told me I could get food there, but the first time I came, Scott wouldn’t let us in. The place was already full. The next week, I was able to get in, and little by little I met the different people who worked there. And after a while, I started coming to help, and I became a regular volunteer. I don’t know why, but something was prodding me to help. I was going to go to Italy, but God didn’t want me to go. There was a seekers’ class, and I went there to ask questions. I wanted to know more about Christianity, because I was curious. While I was asking questions, I was also translating for the other people, from Farsi, the language of Iran, to Kurdish, the language of the area of Iraq where I was born.
I didn’t want to become a Christian, but Helping Hands gave me a place to stay, even though I wasn’t one. It was one of the rules of the house to go to Bible studies and discipleship lessons, so I went obediently. Little by little, I learned more about Christianity, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I started to love going to class, instead of just going because I had to. I read the Bible. Then I started to pray, talking to my God, and I asked Him to show me the right way, the true way. I found reality in the Bible, so I believed in it. But nothing special happened in my life to change me. In Islam, I was taught that if you did bad things, God would send you straight to hell when you died, and God was not a God of love, but of fear and wrath. But when I read the Bible, I discovered that God is a God of love. So I chose the God of love instead of the God of fear.
I have tried to go to Italy ten times. I tried different methods, different smugglers. I used to want to live like I lived before, to be a Muslim as I was. I wanted to go to Italy and then on to another country and apply for refugee status there and continue my daily life. I didn’t know that being a Christian means that I can have God close to me.
I am convinced Scott is preventing me from going to Italy until I attend the Timothy Project, (a weekend retreat with other new believers held outside Athens). I made him promise that he would pray I could go to Italy after I came.
I haven’t told my family that I believe in Jesus. If I told my parents, they would probably kill me. It’s possible that the love of parents would keep them from killing me, but they would disown me from their family, my brothers and sisters as well. I don’t know what my wife will do. She is a very good Muslim. I think I can only tell my wife after she comes to join me in the new land where we will live. Perhaps I will drop hints first. I will tell her I am a Christian, present her with all the information, and then let her decide.
God help me, I want to go to a country where I can live as a human being with human rights. I can’t live in Iraq, because I have never lived with guns, and I can’t live that way. I want to live somewhere where I will have freedom, where I can live like a normal person. I want to bring my family there, legally. I miss them so much. I used to be very depressed before I became a Christian, sad because I was away from my family. But now I have peace.