08/29/2016, 14.07

"I, a Muslim who converted to Christianity, rejected by family and society"

Ismail Jaffar

Speaking to AsiaNews, Anil Gomes (not his real name for security reasons) explains that he converted to Christianity after reading a passage from the New Testament. Since then he has lost every job. His body shows the wounds from assaults and murder attempts. "I cannot maintain my family. Pray for me".

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - "I cannot maintain my family, I need a job, but being a believer of Jesus Christ, again and again I face problems in the workplace. Please pray for me," said Anil Gomes, not his real name for security reasons, as he spoke to AsiaNews about his hard life as a Muslim convert to Christianity.

He used to teach at an Islamic university in Bangladesh, but when his former colleagues caught him reading the Bible, he was fired. Since then he has been subjected to assaults, violence, and death threats. And now, with the country drifting towards Islamism, he is afraid of being killed at any time.

Anil Gomes’ life changed in 1994, when he read a passage from the Gospel of John: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (3:16).

He was in Saudi Arabia to attend advanced studies in Islam, after earning a degree in History in Bangladesh. In Riyadh, where he had gone to attend a death sentence, a man approached him and handed him a leaflet in Arabic.

On the flyer, he read the Gospel verse, which impressed deeply. "I had never seen anything like it in any Islamic book,” he said. “At that point, I had to know everything, and I found out that the passage was part of a sacred text called Injeel Sharif (the New Testament), written before the Qur'an."

"One night,” he remembers, “around 3 am, I saw a man dressed in white enter my room and come to me saying, 'What are you thinking? Take the way of Najat (Redemption) and welcome Mossiah Isa (Jesus)'. Then the man disappeared and I was left trembling with fear."

At first, the Muslim student believed that he could not share what happened to him with anyone, but then after some time, he told the story to a young woman, of Egyptian origin. "She told me to abandon Islam, but I could not heed her appeal. She then left me forever."

Whilst preparing for his doctoral examinations, Anil had the opportunity of visiting 16 Muslim countries on an educational trip. When he arrived in Iraq, he looked for a church. "I went by Pastor Paul (not his real name) and I talked to him. He baptised me on 15 May 1994."

After completing his studies, Anil went back to his country of origin, where he began teaching at an Islamic university as an assistant professor of Arabic literature.

He said that his unusual behaviour raised suspicions among his colleagues. "I was not reading the Qur‘an, so they began to have doubts about me. One day, someone saw me reading the Bible in Arabic, because I was comparing the text with the version in Bengali."

Alerted by his colleagues, the vice-chancellor summoned him to his office and asked if he had converted to Christianity. Anil responded with utmost sincerity: "Yes, I am a follower of Jesus." Then the vice-rector replied that "a kaffir (disbeliever) cannot teach in any Islamic universities". The school administration then fired him.

A few days later, Anil said, "the members of the Islamic student group Shibir took me from the University of Kustia (one of the most prestigious public universities) to Khulna. They wanted to kill me. They cut the veins in my legs, hurt my body at various points, in front of my family and local Muslim fanatics. My body still shows the scars of those 40 blows."

The Christian man was knocked unconscious and woke up four days later at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital in Dhaka.

He had been taken there by a Hindu uncle, to whom his mother had given 85,000 Bangladeshi takas (about US$ 1,075) for admission. In tears and unable to speak, he remembers that his uncle promised to remain with him until he recovered.

The hospital treatment lasted 3 months and 21 days. When he returned home, he was beaten again by Muslims from the local mosque. He was later abandoned by his family, which refused to acknowledge any inheritance, and the wider society.

After losing his job a first time, he lost it again and again for the same reason. He was expelled from an NGO, an Islamic bank, and a financial institution. Then he found work with an evangelical NGO, but was forced to leave for lack of funds.

The last job was in a sales office in Dhaka, where, however, the chief warned him: "Give up Christianity. If you say the prayers and read the Qur‘an all day, you will get the salary." Anil declined. Not only did the would-be employer did not hire, but he also threatened his life.

Today Anil is struggling to keep his family going. He married a Catholic woman and their child is in 8th grade at a Catholic school. Sometimes he talks about his story in seminars and meetings, but this work is not full time.

The recent spate of murders of non-Muslims, bloggers and others converts to Christianity by Islamic radicals has increased even more his fears. "I am very worried about is happening to the country,” he said.

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