Islamists are permitted to stay, but Christians who love Sweden are sent back
Many Muslims in Europe choose to convert to Christianity, in spite of this being a difficult and dangerous road to take. Dispatch International has met two of those who have traded Muhammed for Jesus. Sara Mir Torabi, 54, and Ahmad Ali Ghafari, 54, are now dedicating all their energies towards converting more of their, in their opinion, misguided countrymen.
Muslims seek God, which is why they are drawn to us. Here they are met with love, Sara and Ahmad explain.
Born in 1959, just one month apart, they grew up in different places in Iran, not knowing of each other. Only in 2000 were they to meet, in a remote country named Sweden. At that point, Sara and Ahmad had left not only their home country, but also the religion they had been born into Islam.
For me, it happened during the 1990s, after I had come to Sweden. I was getting signs. For one, my youngest daughter, who was in daycare at that time, kept talking about Jesus without anyone really understanding why. One day, when I was sitting with her in the sandbox, I found a silver crucifix in the sand. I picked it up, became very warm and started shaking. Later I understood that it was God taking hold of me and shaking me. It was time to wake up, Sara explains.
A Chilean grandmother invited her to the Pentecostal Church in Malmö, which is where she came to faith, as she calls it. She was coming out of a very difficult period, with a divorce and many doubts.
I thought that God had forgotten me; everything felt meaningless. When I came to faith, it was a revolution in my life I became fearless and knew genuine joy for the first time in many years.
She knew that, as a convert to Christianity, she would never be able to return to Iran, where Christians are persecuted, threatened, jailed and killed.
I left everything, but had no sorrows. They father of my children threatened me, my father stopped talking to me, but I had no fears or doubts. I had gained hope and life, says Sara.
At the same time, an unhappy Ahmad was sitting further to the north in Småland. He had come to Sweden in order to bring his children home, who had been taken to Sweden in order to visit her brother. They had never returned to Iran.
I thought that I could simply go to Sweden and bring them back, for this is how it works in Islamic countries, the father decides over the children. But when I got here, I understood that a custody dispute is a long and difficult process in Sweden. And I could not return to Iran without my children, that would have too great a shame to bear. So I stayed. I was quite confused and felt really bad, Ahmad elaborates.
He is a scholar of Islam, and for many years worked as an imam. But some years before his travel to Sweden he began to have doubts. There was too much in the Quran, and in particular in Shariah, that was contrary to his concept of God. So he became an atheist.
The Quran talks of a Paradise with virgins, says that a man can have several wives, and that women get only half the inheritance of men. That did not add up for me. This is not coming from God, I thought, these are matters devised by humans, Ahmad says.
Lonely and confused in Småland, he went for long walks in the forests. And there, in the forest, he happened upon a small, white house, where four pensioners were sitting in the basement praying. The asked him inside, and provided him with an Iranian-language Bible.
I was a bit reluctant at first, thinking Iran had provided me with sufficient God. But then I read the Bible. After that I jumped to the church, shouting Make me a Christian!
However, Migrationsverket, the Swedish immigration authorities, had some difficulties believing in the Ahmads conversion. They believed he had made a fake conversion in order to be permitted to stay in Sweden. A long, extended battle began. Three days before he was to be extradited to torture and death in Iran, Migrationsverket suddenly reversed its decision, among reasons due to the appeal by the bishop of Lund, Christina Odelberg, directly to Swedish PM Göran Persson to let Ahmad stay.
It was entirely wrong, a complete nightmare. They did not believe me, no matter what I said, and it did not help that I had married Sara, who was already a Swedish citizen, says Ahmad.
They both consider fake conversions to be very uncommon.
There are of course some. Even one of the disciples of Jesus was Judas. But I estimate that it may be one or two in a thousand, Ahmad says.
Neither he nor Sara can really understand why the Swedish society seems to take the words of Muslim asylum seekers at face value, while fugitive Christians are met with skepticism. They believe that among the Muslims coming to Sweden are persons who consider Europeans as their enemies and who slander Swedish society.
Islamists are permitted to stay. But Christians who love Sweden are returned; I cannot understand why it is like that, Ahmad comments.
The situation in Europe will become dangerous over time, if things continue like this. They are being given everything, yet they talk badly of the country that received them. They have their own schools, their own societies, import their child brides from their home countries; this is not good. And their children become entirely confused; they do not know which rules they have to follow.
Sweden has open arms, Sweden loves everyone, like Jesus. One must be grateful for this, and if it does not fit, one should return home, Sara says.
But even though they both consider Islam a hateful and repressive religion, they say that they love Muslims. Muslims are humans with a powerful longing for God, according to Sara and Ahmad, but led astray. That can explain the great interest in Church of Love, whose branch in Malmö (the main assembly is in Odense, Denmark) consists of close to 200 converts, most of them Iranians. They baptize approximately 10 new members each month, and their local radio broadcast has a weekly audience of 2000.
The Muslims get love from us. Those who come to us feel peace, they hear praise and everything is about love. They have never encountered that before, says Sara.
But it is not uncomplicated to leave Islam, whose sacred laws prescribe that apostasy is subject to capital punishment. Christian converts in Iran live with a permanent threat hanging over them; if they are discovered they will be jailed and tortured, and if they do not covert back to Islam, they may face execution. Ahmad estimates that between 3,000 and 4,000 Christians are currently jailed in Iran due to their religion. But Christian converts in Sweden are not entirely off the hook. They are also threatened and persecuted, and among the Iranians living in Sweden, some are spying on their fellow countrymen.
And in case you get the idea of going back to Iran, things have been cut out for you. There can also be consequences for relatives who remain in Iran. And the spies tip off the Swedish police about Christians who are here illegally; they use every method, including attempts to infiltrate Christian assemblies, Ahmad says.
Yet there is no intention to stop proselytizing and spreading the word of God, despite the threats.
You shall go everywhere and tell the truth, the Bible says. This is our duty. Our society is in need of Christianity, Sara says.
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