When I visited my homeland, Norway, in September 2013, I visited the Afghan-Iranian Christian community in Oslo under the leadership of an old friend, Iranian-born Peter Dahlen. Last month, visiting Norway and Germany, I spent time with other former Muslims from the Middle East and Central Asia who also are in living, dynamic relationships with Jesus.
As an Easter gift to you, I have asked Peter to share his and his sister’s testimonies — I trust their stories of faith and courage will edify you and strengthen you faith! Please pray for both families, and for the persecuted church, especially the Christian believers living in restricted Muslim countries.
My sister, Soheila and I were born into a typical Muslim family in Iran. My father was a kind of Mullah, and he constantly tried to pressure me into becoming a devout Muslim by demanding I follow the many restrictive rules and regulations of the Qur’an. I did not want this, so one day at nine years old, when I loudly refused to believe in Allah, my father threw me out of the house into the streets and abandoned me. I became homeless and lived as a street kid for a few years, during which time I became one of the best pick-pocket thieves in the city.
One day, a group of men called the Mujahedeen grabbed me and enlisted me in into their ranks. I stayed with them for ten years. I was given weapons of all sorts – pistols, shotguns and bombs, and was taught how to use them. They told me that the best thing that could happen to me in life, was to die for Allah. Their desire became my desire — my highest goal became to die in battle for Allah!
The Mujahedeen did not like the Shah or Khomeini – Iran’s religious leader, so they were working toward overturning the country’s leadership in order to radicalize the country. A while after, the Iran–Iraq war broke out, they enlisted me to fight on Iraq’s front line against Iran. It was a grisly war with a very high number of fatalities. At one point, we were only 18 soldiers at our enclave at in the front, battling 10,000 enemies on the other side. I discovered that I did not after all want to kill anybody, so I promised Allah that, if I did not die in this war, I would become totally devoted to him. Another time, a 100 pound rocket was launched against our front line by the Iranians. As I saw it coming towards us, I cried out, “Where are you, God?” Just as the rocket hit, I felt two large, strong hands lift me up into the air and then put me safely down, again. All the others around me died, I was the only one alive! The Qur’an states that Allah is light, but it does not state that he has hands! I was perplexed, as I knew someone who cared had been looking after me. Who was that? During the war, I experienced other miraculous happenings. Once, a RPG rocket hit the car I sat in. The car was demolished, but I survived.
All of this caused me to have a lot of questions about life and death, and I felt an increasing need to find a God who could forgive my sins. I lost the desire to fight, and was able to escape to Kuwait. There the police caught me and deported me to Pakistan – I lived there for a while without passport and other identification papers. I sought asylum and was placed on a list to be sent to a safe country. Finally, Norway decided to accept me as such. On February 13, 1991, I was sent to Norway as refugee to Mo i Rana in the Northern part of the country. I wanted to move south to the capital of Oslo, but without papers and not attending school, I was in limbo.
Then things changed. In 1992, I was accepted as a student at a private Christian school that can be closest compared in the U.S. to a community college (Rønningen Folkehøyskole). When I arrived, I noticed everybody was kind and very different from the tough and tumble characters I used to hang out with. They brought their Bibles with them to class, and they made points of showing love and consideration towards others – and they prayed a lot to their God! I learned later that the students had done much intercession on my behalf, as I was very different from them. I drank alcohol, smoked joints and constantly got in trouble for doing wrong things. They wanted me to be saved!
One day I was lying on my bed in my dorm, half drunk and dizzy from alcohol and drugs. Suddenly, a light appeared in my room. It gradually was transformed into a brilliant heart, like it was made of crystal. The heart had a mouth and eyes and began to speak to me. Gradually, this beautiful heart began to disintegrate as it got distorted behind a cloud of smoke. I asked, “Why is this beautiful heart being destroyed?” Then a voice said, “It is not my heart – it is yours that is being destroyed.” Then the voice said, “Give me all that you struggle with.” The light came toward me and lifted me out of bed. I was reminded of what I had experienced on the battle field during the war in my country when the two hands had lifted me up and saved me from a direct hit from the oncoming rocket. In this beautiful presence of God’s love and light, I gave my life to Jesus! I was instantly set free from the addiction of tobacco, drugs and alcohol, and a deep healing process began to take place in my life – I was being transformed!
Next day, when I walked outside, I saw a young boy in the street who wore a t-shirt which had a picture of a hand with the words written underneath, “Reach-out Centre”. I knew then that the Lord had called me to go out and share the love of Jesus with others who did not know Him! I changed my Muslim name Amin Abbasi to my new Christian name, Peter Dahlen.
On Easter Sunday, 1993 – 21 years ago – I was baptized, after having met a God of love and forgiveness who is the total opposite of Allah who demands blood and death.
After two years at the school in Hurdal, I graduated. More training followed as I attended Bible school in Great Britain. After graduation in England, the Lord called me serve for a few years with Operation Mobilization, whereby I traveled extensively for the Gospel in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Russia.
I met my wife in Norway, who had come as refugee when she was a young girl with her family from Iran. We settled in Oslo, where we have been living and working and actively engaged in Gospel outreach, ministering specifically to the Farsi-speaking population (Iranians and Afghans) while raising our three children who were born in Norway. All three confess and know the Lord Jesus Christ!
When I meet Muslims in the street, I stop them and share my testimony of God’s love. When I was a Muslim, I thought that the Bible was blasphemy, as it has been changed from the true scriptures of the Qur’an. Now I know the Bible is the true, Living Word of God for us today! Allah is not God, but JESUS IS THE LIVING, RISEN CHRIST WHO LOVES US AND SHED HIS BLOOD FOR US!
THE TESTIMONY OF MY SISTER, SOHEILA ABBASI
Twelve years ago, my sister, Soheila visited me and my family in Norway from Iran. I shared the Gospel with her, and she listened, but did not respond at that time. Two years later, Soheila visited us, again. This time, we read the Bible together and talked more about Jesus, and she came to faith. She was baptized in Oslo, and traveled back home to Iran to work among the Muslims there.
Passionate about her new-found faith, she began preaching openly about Jesus who is the Way , the Truth, and the Life. Many people in the city where she lived were gripped by her message, and 45 were baptized. Many miracles took place. A number of churches, that is —private house groups — were planted, and the Gospel kept prospering. This made the Muslim authorities enraged. The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had clearly warned that, if Muslims in his country, Iran, would become Christian, they would be stoned and killed.
A few months later, one of the pastors in the group was arrested and shortly after, the entire group of new believes were also arrested, among them my sister. For several months I had no contact with Soheila, I was certain she had been killed by the authorities!.
I decided to fast and pray for my sister for forty days. Towards the end of my fast, she was suddenly released from prison. She came with her family to Norway, and we were again reunited. Soheila continues to share her faith with others!