Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "Since I converted to Christ, my life is full of love and truth. Today I want to contribute to the work of proclamation, painting and creating representations of Christian statues of Jesus and Mary. It is a spiritual comfort after a radical change. " This is what John Peter (names and places are fictitious to protect people, ed) tells AsiaNews. The Pakistani artist converted to Christianity from Islam and has faced years of persecution and difficulties of all kinds because of his decision. Among others, stigma and violence from his family of origin - Muslim - and serious diseases such as cancer and hepatitis B, from which he has since recovered.
Born and raised in a wealthy and influential Sunni Muslim family - his father was a landowner in Karachi (the southern province of Sindh) - since his early years Sheikh Ilyas Ahmed was interested in Christianity, he became friends with several young members of the religious minority. Even before converting, he attended masses and liturgies during special holidays.
The decisive encounter took place in 2010 during a long period of hospitalization due to serious health problems. First a broken left arm, then the discovery of a tumor and hepatitis B. He met Sister Maimal, a missionary from Malaysia, who offered daily prayers for the sick and suffering. Despite the expensive treatments paid for by his father, including a trip to Dubai, his condition did not improve and he continued to suffer frequent and serious relapses. After meeting with the religious sister, John Peter decided to go on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady in Punjab, to seek the her grace in the hope of healing and renew his promise to convert to Christianity.
On his return he decided to abandon Islam and embrace faith in Jesus Christ. He was baptized by the missionary priest Fr. James Francis in a church in the city and changed his name. He remains steadfast in his purpose, despite the beatings, abuse and humiliation inflicted by family members, who take him to witchdoctors , convinced that he was under the influence of some mysterious spell. He bore the humiliation with patience, aggravated by the disease that undermined his health conditions. Finally, in December 2010, he managed to escape and find shelter in the Punjab with some Christian families, who welcomed and comforted him.
Over the past three years, he has succeeded in overcoming his difficulties and sufferings of all kinds, with the help of the Gospel and the comfort of faith in Christ. The pilgrimage to the Marian shrine also led to the miracle of his being healed from cancer and hepatitis B, as confirmed recently the doctors: "In September 2012, after the check-up, the doctors told me that I was cured. Indeed I also stopped vomiting. God has heard all my prayers. I now create statues and paintings, and I will live forever in the Church. And I pray the Lord that all Pakistani Christians may be saved and promote the message of peace and love as taught by Jesus Christ. "