“I was sure that Christianity is a lie, and I was convinced that it is a wrong faith because to [Alawites], Christians are deluded,” he says. “They worship a human, not a God; they are infidels.”
Anwar was taught by his parents and community that he shouldn’t even be friends with a Christian.
“I wasn’t supposed to let any Christian enter my life,” he says. “[Christians] were said to have a way of convincing people to join their false religion; but as I grew up and went to college, I met a Christian girl.”
Anwar mocked this girl and made fun of her when she told him about the gospel— how Jesus died and rose from the dead to save humanity.
“I didn’t believe a word she said, especially when she told me that He is alive now and I can ask Him myself,” he says.
When Anwar was in college, the Syrian Civil War was raging around him. While his parents managed to postpone forced military service for his brother, Anwar was only able to avoid his military service because he was a student. But at that point, he was failing his classes and risked being expelled from college. His health, both physically and mentally, was deteriorating.
“I went through deep depression, and through it all, the Christian girl kept talking to me about Jesus, which made the pressure even greater,” he says. “At that point, I believed that Allah hated me, and I hated him for allowing all this to happen to me. I wanted to end my life.”
Anwar thought he had no future and no hope—but God had another idea. Anwar recalls: “My friend said: ‘Why not try to talk to Jesus and see what He has to tell you? If you want to end your life, then you have nothing to lose.’ So I thought to myself, if it doesn’t work, then I can still kill myself, so why not try this?
“She taught me how to pray, and I went into my room and I remember thinking that I was a crazy person for talking to myself. At first, nothing changed, but after a while I became addicted to knowing Jesus. I started watching videos, listening to worship songs and sermons. I completely forgot about suicide. One day, I was talking to Him, and I started crying. I poured my heart out to Him, and suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. I have a friend: Jesus.”
“I fell in love with Jesus,” he says.
Anwar began reading the Gospel of John. He remembers how he felt God talking to him through the Bible, spiritual songs and sermons.
“Jesus is my best friend. I don’t talk to my family—I just talk to Him about everything.”
‘Don’t ever come back here’
Anwar’s newfound faith gave him such joy … but it was coupled with the fear of his family finding out the truth about his conversion.
“I had to leave the house because if they found out the truth, I would be in danger,” he says. “I could have been killed, kicked out of the house, deprived of my inheritance and disowned.”
Anwar couldn’t utter the word “Jesus” in front of his family—and the pressure he felt was unrelenting, especially since he used to hear stories about people who converted and were slaughtered, attacked or imprisoned.
“I remember when my friend took me to church for the first time in the city,” he recalls. “I didn’t hear the sermon or the songs—I was preoccupied by the fear of someone recognizing me and telling my family.”
But word soon got out. People discovered Anwar—the son of a sheikh—was attending a church, and the news spread like wildfire. Eventually, the truth reached his parents. As he remembers this moment, Anwar sighs and pauses for few seconds. Then he continues.
“I heard that my mother had a nervous breakdown, and I called my siblings, but no one answered. After a few hours, my sister called, and she was crying. She said: ‘Don’t ever come back here; my mother is in the hospital because of you. You are no longer my brother. Wasn’t your faith enough for you? You have no honor.’”
Around the same time, Anwar was invited by his Christian friend to a conference with the church. He had a choice to make: Should he return home and confront the situation with his family … or ignore the problems at home and prioritize the conference to grow in his new faith?
Eventually, he decided to go to the conference. “I’m remembering very hurtful details. How could my family do this to me?” Anwar says, wiping silent tears with shaky hands. “I turned off my phone and went to the conference, and it was the best couple of days of my life. I experienced the Lord in an unprecedented way. I listened to Him and felt His presence and forgot everything. I was cheerful when I came back.”
But when he returned to the house where he was staying—which was owned by his parents—his room had been cleaned out and his bags packed. His brother called him and asked him to leave the house immediately. Anwar had no place to go.
New hope and new life