(AsiaNews) - A few days ago, the website of Notre Dame de Kabylie posted
a tape in which a former Muslim, Mohammed Christophe Bilek, talked about his
conversion to Christianity. The original broadcast, which focused on the persecution of
Christians, first appeared in 'Dieu Merci' (Thank
God), a show that deals with religion on Direct 8, a French TV channel.
Christophe Bilek was born in Algeria in 1950 and has lived in France since 1961.
He is the author of two books: Un
algérien pas très catholique (A not very Catholic Algerian), published by Cerf
(1999) and Saint Augustin raconté à ma
fille (Saint Augustine as told to my daughter), published by Éditions Qabel
(2011). In the 1990s, he founded the Notre Dame de Kabylie (in
French), a website devoted to evangelisation among Muslims and Muslim-Christian
video, Bilek highlights the risk Muslim converts face when accused of apostasy,
an offence that can be punished by death. Nevertheless, he insists on the
importance of baptism, the encounter with Jesus Christ and affiliation with the
go against those of priests and bishops in Muslim countries, who prefer to
dissuade or even deny baptism to Muslims who want to convert out of fear for
the consequences they and Christian communities might face.
weeks ago, a bishop in an Arab country in the Middle East told me that police
threatened to close one of his communities because members had advertised a
Christian-Muslim meeting on dialogue. Police were concerned that this might be
the first step towards so-called proselytising and apostasy. "If this is the
reaction to a meeting on dialogue, imagine what it would be if we had a
conversion," an embittered bishop said.
no wonder then that the prelate is against conversions and baptisms for only
this seems to be the way to preserve the little freedom of worship that exists
in the country in question.
like Morocco, and until recently Algeria, the situation is such that dioceses
were instructed not to baptise Muslims who want to convert to Catholicism
because "local laws ban it."
Khalil remembers that a few years ago, he met a Muslim whose request for
baptism was rejected for 13 years. Baptism, he was told, would bring him a lot
of trouble, force him to emigrate to avoid being executed for apostasy, and endanger
the priest performing the baptism. And yet, for all this time, the would-be
convert studied the Gospels and the catechism on his own and led a life of
Egypt, the Christian clergy also tends to avoid baptising Muslims; only a few priests
have done so in secret. Speaking to AsiaNews,
a religious who has been in Egypt for decades, said that baptising at any cost
"is against the Second Vatican Council because the Council said that
non-Christians can also find salvation outside the Church." Implicitly, this
means that baptism is unnecessary and that people find salvation according to
not the place to start a theological debate about the faith in Christ and the
salvation of non-Christians. Suffices it to say, that both Dominus Iesus and the Doctrinal note on some aspects of
evangelization reiterate the importance of a 'visible' and socially
relevant affiliation to Christ and the Church.
more, baptism is a life-changing experience, one that alters the convert's
perception of life. Changes occur in the here and now, not in some future
'eternal' life after death. For this reason, offering others the baptism is not
a superficial deed but a gift of life and hope in the present. Being baptised
or not being baptised are not equivalent.
Christians' 'solar' God vs the Qur'an's 'lunar' God
changes the present in a profound and meaningful way. On Notre Dame de Kabylie,
Mohammed Christophe explains his conversion by stressing his new understanding
God of the Qur'an is the same as that of the Christians, why did I, Mohammed,
become Christophe," he asked himself. "Having lived in Islam, practiced its
precepts among people who are still Muslim (his family still is), I continue to
be dazzled by the discovery of the Gospel," he said by way of answer.
light that comes from the Gospel suggests a comparison, one based on a certain
premise. Anyone who wants to talk about the God of Islam must refer to Qur'an. If
we replace the word 'God' with 'light', the light of the Qur'an is lunar, that
of the Gospel is solar."
God is one, i.e. the creator, whatever the name we might have given him, is
something I can accept. If we stuck to this premise, it would not be necessary
to leave Islam and become Christian."
came to reveal, first to the Jews, then to all men, that 'God is your Father,
that God loves you and wants you with Him to give you His life!' Upon such
words, I do not hesitate one moment. I accept the offer, not once, but twice. I
know that the Qur'an makes an offer in which I may deserve (but that is not
certain) a carnal and materialist heaven (Sura
38, 50-52) that reminds me more of ads for vacation spots to idle away the
time under the tropical sun than of the certainty of 'knowing' my God and
about the images we have of Christ and Mohammed? Two quotes say it all for Mohammed
Christophe. In one case, Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd
lays down his life for the sheep," whilst in the other, Mohammed is told "O
Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers;
and those whom thy right hand possesses" (Sura
be serious. It is one thing to say 'there is but one God for all;' it is
another to say that He is interested in me, insignificant worm, to the extent that
he 'deifies' me in Jesus. [. . .] Such revelation was my calling."
freedom without submission
Christophe also speaks about apostasy and the possibility of death that comes
from following him.
says, "Are you ready to follow me and leave everything for me? When one
realises what Jesus asks, out of love, we can see how difficult it is to follow
him. It is also one thing to say 'yes' with one's lips; it is another to leave
everything behind for Him.
of us who come from Islam, this means breaking with one's past, family and
community as well as one's moral or spiritual certainties."
it is much easier to remain a Muslim, not take a stance (since we have the same
God). There are many easy excuses not to make the break, not to accept this
transformation, not to die in oneself and not to follow Christ. Conversion is
demanding and cannot be done without his help."
is what the rich youth in the Gospel could not do, because, at least at the
start, one must freely agree. Jesus does not impose on me any "submission" but
only the freedom to love him."
is an important difference. Does God create us as free men or slaves? Depending
on our answer, God is not the same. In one case, I risk the punishment reserved
for apostates or unbelievers; in the other, I am the prodigal son expected by
his father, who calls all his servants as soon he sees him on the horizon."
Islam is dangerous. It is done at the risk of one's life. Thus, dear brothers
and sisters in the West, welcome and help those who do it."
insist. I am not talking about the God of the Muslims but of the God of the Qur'an.
Muslims are my brothers; perhaps one day, they may be my brothers and sisters
the 1990s, this has not only been a hope but it has also been a reality that
has made me rejoice and praise the Lord. Alleluia! Jesus has come to save all
men, Muslims included."