A Christian Convert In Lebanon
Thomas prays after receiving his first Communion during Pentecost Mass at a church in Beirut 27 May. The Yemen-born Muslim (Thomas is his baptismal name) had to flee his home country in order to become a Christian. (photo: CNS/Dalia Khamissy)
04 Jun 2012 BEIRUT (CNS) — The first time Thomas stepped
inside a church, he was overcome with emotion.
This was my dream, to see a church, Thomas
recalled. I entered, I forgot myself. I couldnt control
myself from crying.
The Muslim man and his Ethiopian Orthodox wife
had just arrived in Lebanon from Yemen, Thomas
homeland, seeking freedom of religion.
They stayed in the church two hours and then,
mustering up his courage, Thomas approached the priest
and asked to be baptized, unaware of the extensive
Realizing the couples predicament — refugees
with no money, no jobs and no contacts — the priest
guided the couple to Father Martin McDermott, an
American Jesuit who serves Lebanons Afro-Asian
The couple shared their story with Father Martin
and, later, with Catholic News Service.
To protect their identities because they are at risk
of being killed by authorities in Yemen, the couple asked
CNS not to report their real names. The Yemeni man
asked to be called Thomas, the name he chose for his
baptism, and his wife requested the name Nardos, which
means Mary Magdalene in Amharic.
They met several years ago in a computer class in
Yemen, where Nardos was working as a house maid.
Although they could not date openly, as it is forbidden in
Yemen, they were able to meet in public for coffee. The
couple soon fell in love, but Thomas knew his family
would never accept Nardos because she was Christian.
Thomas says he was Muslim just by name.
I hated going to the mosque. I was not happy
there, he said.
Six years ago, he met a Christian man who was
working in Yemen. That opportunity sparked his interest
I used to ask God: ‘I want to see a church,
Thomas recalls. I would feel something inside, telling me
to be strong, giving him the perseverance to wait and be
In Internet cafes, Thomas often searched to learn
about Jesus and the Bible. When he met Nardos, he
already knew the story of the loaves and fishes and had a
deep respect for Mary, as do many Muslims.
But the authoritarian hand of the Yemeni
government was evident: When he tried to open those
Christian websites again, they would always be blocked.
The couples relationship took a turn when Nardos
About six weeks into the pregnancy, Nardos was
suffering from severe bouts of nausea and vomiting. When
asked by the hospital admitting desk if Nardos was his
wife, Thomas lied and said yes. But hospital officials
wanted to see the papers proving the marriage. Thomas
lied again and said he would go home and get the papers.
Meanwhile, Nardos was admitted.
Outside the hospital, Thomas was grabbed by four
undercover police and pushed into a car and taken to a
building. Each time he tried to explain himself, he was
beaten. They then prodded him with questions: Who is
the girl, shes your wife? Tell the truth. Is she Christian or
Muslim? He told his accusers that he was ready to marry
Back at the hospital, the doctor told Nardos that
she had to perform an operation.
Tags: Lebanon Middle East Christians Christian-Muslim relations Ethiopian Orthodox Church