Muhammad, a young Muslim Iraqi, wasn’t expecting he’d have to fulfill much of his required military duty in 1987—a few days at most before his prominent Shiite family would work something out so he’d be able to come home. But his first night there proved to be one of the most trying experiences of his life up until that point, and it had nothing to do with the war; it was because he had to share a barracks room with a Christian.
Christians, Muhammad explains, are regarded as “impure pariahs,” who are to be avoided at all costs. “I was afraid of being touched by that Christian, of having to speak to him, or even to share my meal with him,” he explains. “Never in my life had I imagined such a trial.”
What got Muhammad through that first night was the thought that Allah may have sent him to convert his roommate. Little did he know then that he himself would be the one to convert.
In “The Price to Pay,” Muhammad (now Joseph Fadelle—the name he took after his baptism) recounts his experience of converting to Christianity in a country where changing one’s religion is a crime. But the state was among the least of his concerns. Fadelle belonged to a rich family of noblemen, directly descended from the Prophet. And from a young age he was designated as his father’s successor of the clan, so the notion that he would renounce Islam and shame his family in such a monumental way was unthinkable. Thus, the years of imprisonment and torture he endured for his new-found faith were magnified by knowing that it was his family that was responsible for his incarceration to begin with.
Fadelle divides his experience into two parts in the book—the first details his conversion to Christianity, while the second portion deals with his family’s exodus from Iraq to Jordan and eventually France. Some of the many fascinating stories Fadelle tells throughout the book include how conversations with his barracks roommate influenced his way of thinking about the Quran and Islam and ultimately led him to Christ; his wife’s conversion to the faith; his family’s attempt to murder him; and his miraculous healing from the gunshot wound.
The book is an eye opener for any western reader who, more likely than not, takes freedom of religion for granted. It took Fadelle 13 years from the time he decided to follow Christ to when he was ultimately baptized—and it was not for lack of trying. Aside from his imprisonment, his desire to be baptized was rejected over and over and over again by countless priests who shuddered at the thought of baptizing a Muhammad—it was too risky. After all, Fadelle’s conversion didn’t just put his own life on the line, it also greatly endangered the Christian communities he so desperately sought to become part of.
What helped him get through those years of persecution, of being rejected by his family, and of having to flee his homeland, however, was Christ’s promise that “every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”
Seeing what Fadelle went through to receive the “bread of life” will undoubtedly strengthen the Christian reader’s faith and instill in the westerner a renewed appreciation for religious freedom. “The Price to Pay” is a fascinating account of the persecution Christians living in the Muslim world endure—one that is unfortunately still relevant today.
Original CBC review by Leah Barkoukis
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