Seyed Mohammad Mahdi comes originally from Iran, a country in which religious freedom does not exist and where possession of a Bible can mean a death sentence. Mahdi was forced to leave Iran and is now living as a refugee in Spain. “My life in my own country was quite normal, happy, together with my family, and especially my daughter – until I began my journey of faith, that is. Having to leave all that behind because of my desire to become a Christian was very hard, but that was my decision.” He shares his personal witness in an interview with the Spanish national office of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).
Where are you from originally and what was your life like in Iran?
I am Iranian born, and I’m thirty-eight years old. My life in my country was quite normal; I had work, a home, I was happy living with my family and especially my daughter. I miss them greatly; two days ago was my daughter’s birthday, so I send her a great big kiss from here.
What was it that changed this normal life you were leading?
It was hard because I wanted to become a Christian, but this is a long and hard journey. In my country, Muslims are forbidden to change religion. And so I had to leave my country. I don’t know how long I went without eating, without water, walking across mountains, rivers, every night fearful of the police and of the people. But thanks be to God, I am safe and sound now; I am with Jesus, in a free country where I can live my faith in freedom.
And during this journey, nothing could separate you from that something which you are still holding now in your hands, a Bible in Farsi, the language of Iran.
It’s all that I have now. I carry this book with me everywhere, because all its words have a destiny and a goal for me. It has always helped me, it contains powerful words for me.
I see that you are also wearing a rosary around your neck. Why is that?
Yes, it goes everywhere with me and I pray it regularly. It is a very special gift that was given me by a priest, a great friend of mine, my parish priest in the parish of Saint Cosmas in Burgos, here in Spain. That is something that is forbidden in my country. And Christians there cannot wear a cross around their neck either or carry the Bible.
What is your life like now?
I am happy because I am free to speak of Jesus, free to believe, and to think. Some people say that faith is an illusion, but it is not true; I always feel the closeness of God. When I arrived in Spain, it was the first time in my life that I had seen a church. I went in and I sensed something very special. I went there to give thanks to God for having preserved my life because it was an extremely difficult journey.
Who is helping you on your path of faith?
Jesus, Mary, and this book, the Bible. When I left my country I didn’t know what I was going to have to face, and there were many times when I told myself I could go no further. But Jesus Christ helped me to never lose faith, and now I am not afraid of anything.
How did you feel on the day of your baptism? It had to be delayed on account of the pandemic, didn’t it?
I was baptized by Bishop Fidel of Burgos. When he poured the water over my head, I changed completely, I felt the sense of pardon of all my sins. I always used to think I would be able to change the bad things I had done, but I never succeeded in doing so. When I was baptized, it was as though God had given me a new soul and a new body, that’s how it felt. Now I cannot stop thinking about God. When I wake, when I go to bed, when I am walking, I am conscious that God has done all things well and that the world is wonderful.