In this district of Istanbul, Bashir Mohammad's apartment accommodated 22 Christian refugees at his home on the evening when the New York Post carried out this investigation.
Bashir, 25, is a Christian. He wears a cross around his neck. Each week, he invites new converts to a Bible study in his living room. However, only 4 years ago, he was fighting alongside Al Nosra, on the Syrian front lines. He was as he says himself, “A jihadi who turned to Jesus”.
And when it came to Jesus, everything changed. Not just his faith, but also his demeanor and character. His wife, Hevin Rashid confirms, “it's much nicer to live with him”.
According to the Guardian, the phenomenon of conversion of Muslim refugees to Christianity is not new, particularly in predominantly Christian countries. And if new converts are sometimes accused of faking a conversion to facilitate their immigration procedures, reporter Patrick Kingsley himself observes that what he sees in this apartment seems far removed from this view of things.
Bashir does not match the profile described. He lives in a Muslim country, does not aspire to immigrate to the West, and has an unusual background as a former “jihadi”, who came to the Christian faith.
Bashir is from Syrian Kurdistan. He grew up in a Muslim family, and flirts with extremism from his teenage years, through his cousin Ahmad. When war broke out in Syria, he first joined the Kurdish forces. He is traumatized by all the deaths they see on the front lines and comes closer to a more fundamentalist view of Islam.
“When I saw all these corpses, I believed all the teachings I had previously received. And I began to seek 'the greatness of religion'. ”
He thus joined the jihadist group Al Nosra in 2012, and once again finds himself a witness to the brutality. But Bashir, disenchanted, will begin to question the motivations of Al Nosra, to the point of deciding to desert and return to his family and his fiancée.
“I went with Al Nosra to find my God, but after seeing Muslims kill Muslims, I realized that there was something wrong here.”
A year later Bashir and Hevin were still zealous Muslims when they decided to flee to Istanbul. In 2015, Hevin fell seriously ill. Bashir recounts his situation to his cousin who led him to extremism, now immigrated to Canada. What a shock when Bashir learns that this former extremist has become a Christian! Ahmad offers to put the phone near Hevin, so that she can hear the prayers and the songs of the house group. Desperate, Bashir finally accepts. In just a few days, the young woman regained her strength.
Bashir then contacted Eimad Brim, missionary in Turkey to The Good Shepherd.
The young man began to read the Bible, meet Christians and discover the Christian faith. Everything seemed more peaceful and generous to him than he knew in Islam.
And like many Muslims, it was the dreams he and Hevin had that sealed their conversions. When the couple began to consider leaving Islam, Hevin dreamed of a biblical figure who used the powers of heaven to divide the waters of the sea, which Bashir interpreted as a sign of encouragement from Jesus. . And then, Bashir, himself dreamed that Jesus was giving him chickpeas. The couple felt loved.
“There is a big gap between the god I used to worship and the one I worship now… We worshiped in awe. Now everything has changed. "
Today, Bashir leads a house group. 2 months before the interview, a Yazidi converted there. Bashir is the glue of this small group. He leads the times of song and prayer, and distributes coffee at the end of the meeting. His calm and kindness are the opposite of the violent temper that animated him a few years ago.
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