For a Faith He Did Not Possess
man tortured in Iran, finally discovers the light in New Dehli after a
multi-year trek through the Middle East
I was 15, I received the gospel through a man who ripped a few pages
apart from a Bible and gave them to me,” says Hussain Andaryas,
editor and producer of Afghan Christian Media (www.afghanmedia.org).
Andaryas immediately suspected the man on the street corner was
Russian—dispensing Soviet propaganda. He grew up in Kabul during the
time of the Russian invasion, and his parents were staunch
didn’t know the man was a Christian or that the pages came from the
Bible. “The man may have only had one Bible to give to people, so it
was like a lottery. I got all of Matthew’s gospel and part of
Luke.” Afraid of his parents’ reaction, he read the pages with a
flashlight under the covers of his bed.
he studied the genealogy in Matthew, many of the names sounded
familiar. He realized the man must have given him a Bible, but he was
still suspicious of the contents. “I was taught the gospels are
corrupt, changed by men in the West according to their wants,” he
liked chapter five of Matthew until he got to Jesus’ words in verses
43 and 44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your
neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, ‘love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you.’”
instinctively rejected these words of Jesus. “This was very hard for
me because my ethnic group—the Hazaras—was hated by almost every
other ethnic group in Afghanistan,” he says. Many looked down on
Hazaras because of their Mongol ethnic roots and Shia religious
affiliation--most of Afghanistan is Sunni. As Andaryas pondered
Jesus’ words, the idea of loving people who hated him seemed
just before Andaryas graduated from high school, he ran away to the
mountains to avoid army service. “When I graduated I would have had
to join the communist army to fight against my own brothers,” he
says. Rather than face such a dilemma, he found refuge in a small
village in the mountains outside Kabul.
elders in the village quickly spotted potential in the young man, and
told him he must go to Iran to study Islam. With their support, he
found himself at Hawzah Ilmiah, the largest Shia Islamic university in
Iran, located in the city of Qom.
after his arrival, he received a note from his parents instructing him
to visit some distant relatives in the capital of Tehran. Deeply
rooted cultural traditions obligated Andaryas to pay a visit to them,
even though he never met them. “If I have relatives in a country, I
have to go visit them,” he notes. “It would be a big shame if I
morning Andaryas made the two-hour journey from Qom to Tehran and
spent the day searching for his relatives, but never found them. Tired
and hungry, he went to a city park in the center of the capital and
sat down on a bench next to an elderly man who read the newspaper.
Afghan,” the man turned to him and said. “When did you come from
Afghanistan?” Andaryas ignored him, suspicious of his motives. “I
don’t think God likes the war in your country or in my country,”
the stranger continued. “It’s Satan who wants all this bloodshed.
The fact is, God wants us to love our enemies.”
me,” Andaryas said, surprised by the man’s last statement. “What
did you say?”
wants us to love our enemies,” he said once more.
me, are you speaking from some book called ‘Matthew?’” Andaryas
really want to know about this,” Andaryas told him. The two agreed
to start meeting together on a regular basis in the man’s home.
met every Thursday night for the next 13 months. “I told my friends
at school I was going to visit my relatives, but I was lying,”
Andaryas says. “I always had to arrive back by Friday prayers.”
argued with this man a lot and I tried to convince him that
Christianity was wrong,” Andaryas recalls. “I put hard questions
to him, and I even thought of harming him because he was so wrong,”
he says. “But all the time he was so gracious, kind, and patient
didn’t tell him at first he was an Islamic student. “I was strong
in my Islamic faith,” he notes, “but I had a lot of questions.”
concealed these meetings from even his closest friends, knowing the
dangers of meeting with a Christian. Eventually Andaryas’ parents
discovered he wasn’t visiting his relatives. When they realized he
secretly met with a Christian, they reported him to Iran’s religious
police came and caught me and this elderly man together reading the
Bible,” Andaryas recalls. The religious police, known as Mutaween,
arrested and interrogated both men in separate cells.
the next three days and nights Andaryas experienced a living nightmare.
The police sat him in a chair and attached electric wires to his
fingers as they questioned him. They also submerged him in water and
then jolted him with electric current until he passed out. When he
regained consciousness he was horrified to see them cut his body with
knives. They also rubbed salt into his open wounds.
not a Christian,” Andaryas cried out to his tormenters. “I only
met with this man to convince him to become a Muslim,” he protested.
During this ordeal, Andaryas sensed a quiet inner voice speaking to
him, saying: “This is wrong. These are not my ways—I am not
the fourth day the police rendered their verdict. “We have already
killed your friend,” they told Andaryas. “Because this is your
first offense we will forgive you, but if you keep studying Christian
books the same thing will happen to you.”
his ordeal, Andaryas began to view his Islamic faith with a more
critical eye. “My friends at school were looking at me weirdly,
distancing themselves,” he recalls. He began to fear for his safety
at the university. “I thought I could be killed because I studied
Christian books--if not by the state, then by my friends,” he notes.
“I knew things would go very wrong for me if I didn’t escape.”
he pondered his future, Andaryas remembered a shirt his mother gave
him before he left home. She gave him specific instructions not to
wear or even wash the shirt. “Never use that shirt unless you’re
in trouble,” she told her son. “But if you have a problem, tear
the collar off that shirt very carefully.”
his premonition of danger, he followed her advice and carefully
removed the collar and its stitching. He discovered she sewed 500 U.S.
dollars into the collar.
the money, Andaryas took a bus to the Turkish border, then hired human
smugglers to take him across the border on a motorcycle trip he
describes as a “death ride.” The smugglers insisted he hand over
all his money and possessions until they completed the trip. “After
we crossed they took $100 and gave me back $400,” he recalls. Their
fairness completely surprised him.
there, he traveled to Syria, where he met a man in a coffee house
wearing a cross. Andaryas asked if the man could find him a Bible.
“He wasn’t a Christian, but he found a Bible for me.” For the
first time in his life, he had all the scriptures in his possession,
from Genesis to Revelation.
made his way to Egypt, where he enrolled in another Islamic university.
“For 15 months I was very secretive, not telling them about my past,”
he says. During this period, he critically studied the Koran and the
Bible. His studies convinced him there was something wrong with Islam,
but he still couldn’t accept the teaching of Jesus to love his
enemies. “One thing that didn’t go away was the hatred in my
heart,” he recalls. “All my life I was hated by other people. I
couldn’t imagine how I could love my enemies.”
really bothered me for nine years,” he adds.
at the university found out Andaryas had a Bible in his possession,
and he was kicked out of the school. Discouraged about the course of
his life, he made his way to Karachi, Pakistan. “I didn’t have a
Bible or anything. All I had was seven years of hardship and tortures—things
I never imagined receiving in my life.”
his first few months in Karachi he slept on the ground, and managed to
find work with a road crew, breaking up stones used in road
construction. “I had no pillow; I just slept on the ground, and I
remember animals coming up and sniffing me in the middle of the
finally got a tiny room in the slums, supplied by a garment factory
where he found work. From his street level room, he could watch people
as they passed on the streets, and his attention began to focus on a
bicycle repairman who often stood outside his window. He watched
people take advantage of the repairman, and wondered why the man never
seemed to lash back at them.
parents always taught me if someone hits you once, you hit them back
ten times,” Andaryas says. One day, he couldn’t stand it any
longer, and he charged out on the street to question the man.
“What’s wrong with you, are you a coward?” he asked. “People
are mistreating you all the time and you don’t do anything. What
kind of person are you?”
name is Yusuf,” he replied. “I’m not a coward,” he said.
“The God I worship tells me to love my enemies.”
must be kidding,” Andaryas said, incredulously. “Could you repeat
a Christian, and in the Christian faith, Jesus Christ tells me that
even though people hate me, I must not revile them, because when
people hit Jesus and when they crucified him…”
a minute,” Andaryas broke in. “Jesus Christ was not crucified . He
was taken alive by Allah to heaven. It was Judas who was crucified
instead of him.”
no. That’s not reality. On the cross he said to the people who
actually crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do.”
though Andaryas was familiar with this verse, it seemed to touch the
core of his heart in a new way. He marveled at the fact that as he
traversed the Middle East—from country to country, people stumbled
into his path with this verse. Andaryas was so taken by the man’s
sincerity and humility; he asked if they could meet together. For the
next two years, the men met together every day to study the Bible.
“It was like God sent an angel,” Andaryas says.
finally got close to accepting Christ, but thought that would be a bad
idea in a Muslim country like Pakistan. “I was a coward,” he
recalls. “I thought I would go to India, a Hindu country—and there,
no one would bother me if I became a Christian.”
paid for the creation of a fake passport, so he could travel from
Karachi to Lahore, and then to New Dehli. After his arrival, he made
his way to a known enclave for Afghan refugees and was startled to run
into an old classmate from Kabul. “He hugged me and took me into his
home,” Andaryas says.
evening, he and his friend were walking home when they met two men in
the street who invited them to a public hall to listen to music.
Shortly into the program, Andaryas realized this was a Christian
gathering. The room was packed with Hindi-speaking Indians. Andaryas
never was good at mastering foreign languages, so he sat back, not
expecting to understand very much. After the music, a man got up to
speak from the Bible in Hindi.
however, he heard the preacher say: “God’s Word says, ‘If you
have no love, you have not known God, because God is love.’ That is
a basic thing for you to understand.”
was struck by these words, and reasoned that this must be the reason
he had difficulty loving people, because he didn’t have the source
of love. “The God I worshipped in the past always taught me hatred,”
he thought. “The pastor told about how miserable he was as a
non-Christian, how he hated people, and how people hated him.” The
preacher seemed to tell Andaryas’ own story.
the preacher said, “You can’t overcome evil with evil, you must
overcome evil with good.” Again, the power and simplicity of the
words penetrated his soul. Then the pastor quoted John 3:16: “For
God so loved the world he gave his only son, that whoever believes in
Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
you see he loved you even though you were not worthy to be loved. GOD
GAVE--God gave his only son,” the pastor emphasized.
immensity of God’s gift finally penetrated Andaryas’ heart. For
the first time, he saw how much God loved him, even as a lost sinner.
Andaryas started to cry; his whole body was shaking. “I didn’t
know what was happening to me.”
the call went out: “Do you want to accept this gift of God—Jesus
Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you do, then raise your hand.”
raised his hand to receive Christ, and basked in feelings of newfound
peace and overwhelming joy. In the midst of this transformational
moment he began to wonder. “Why did he speak in my language when the
audience was completely Hindi? I was really puzzled.”
Andaryas approached the preacher and asked him directly: “How did
you know how to speak Hazaragi?” Hazaragi is a unique dialect of the
Persian language, with some Turkish and Mongolian words in the mix.
never heard that language,” he replied.
you spoke it,” Andaryas insisted.
spoke in plain Hindi.”
language was always a weakness for Andaryas, during the next two years
he learned 12 new languages, including Koine Greek, the ancient
language of the New Testament. He believes God helped to teach him
these languages supernaturally. “I became an evangelist immediately
after I was saved.”
1996, Andaryas started an internet ministry, which has developed 25
web sites from which Muslims can download the Bible in their own
languages. “Twice in the past Muslim hackers have completely
destroyed my servers, but I always back them up.” He’s also
received lucrative offers to shut down his web sites.
Andaryas operates two daily radio and television programs for
Afghanistan, broadcast directly into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and
Andaryas looks back, he marvels at the way God arranged divine
encounters to win his soul as he traveled the Middle East. “Now I
can see that God sought me. I believe if I was the only person needing
salvation he would come and die for me.”