Muslim woman flees Iraq to become a Christian
By Weam Namou
Rita lived a normal life in Iraq as a Muslim girl until one night, at age 18, she had a mystical dream. She saw herself walking in a green field surrounded by green trees. She reached an old but extraordinarily beautiful clay house and knocked on its brown wooden door. A graceful man dressed in priest clothing opened the door and welcomed her inside where she saw a lovely lady lying on the bed. She also welcomed her in the most joyous manner. Rita asked them, “Who are you?”
The man responded, “I am Yasoo’(Jesus,) and this is my mother Mary.”
Rita woke up from the dream startled. Jesus and the Virgin? She only knew them as Issa and Maryam, as is taught by Islam. So many questions whirled in her head. She remembered her nanny, a Christian woman who’d cared for her from birth until age 18. She never mentioned religion to Rita, but the day she left, she gave Rita a Bible and a rosary. Rita suddenly realized that was a sign from God for her to learn about Christianity – something she hardly knew. She wasn’t even aware what exactly defined a priest or nun.
Shortly afterward, Rita attended Law School in Iraq, majoring in Human Rights but the courses were mainly on Islamic Sharia. The faces of Jesus and Mary from the dream never left her. Wanting to learn more about Christianity, she joined an apologetics site online. She asked them their thoughts about her dream and a priest said “It’s God calling you to be baptized.”
This led her on a journey of reading and comparing the Bible to the Quran and “finding the true God in the Bible.” She decided to be baptized. Worried for her safety, a number of Christians she turned to tried to deter her from this dangerous and forbidden path. In Islam, a person who converts to a different religion is punished by death. They advised her to be a Christian at heart, but Rita refused. She told them, “Nothing is impossible with Jesus!”
By now, she had been accepted to study for her masters at the American University in Beirut. Two nights before her departure, a voice in her head told her to hide her passport, so she quickly buried it in their yard. When she returned into the house, her mother asked her, “Why do you want to change your religion?”
Her mother had read messages she’d shared with the apologetics group. Outraged, her mother and brother beat her with steel wires and locked her in her room. During this torture, Jesus appeared to Rita, standing behind her mother and brother. He placed his hand over his mouth, signaling for her to remain silent. Seeing him, Rita forgot all her pain.
After a week of agony, Rita decided to run away from home. With the help of friends who gave her money, she left to the airport. An interesting sequence of events then happened. She went through many checkpoints without anyone stopping or even searching her. The flight clerk told her the flight was booked, but after looking further into the matter, he learned two seats were available. In the airplane, a man in clergy clothing sat beside Rita. She was terrified and he kept repeating, “Do not be afraid,” but she didn’t know why he was saying that. At the airport in Beirut, security approached her and brought her to the security office for questioning. The clergy who’d sat next to her followed them and told the officer, “She’s with me. She’s part of my tourist group.”
“Welcome,” said the officer and he stamped her passport.
When Rita turned around to thank the man, he had vanished. Rita ended up going to a local church in Beirut, where the priest took her to a family that embraced her. She was baptized on May 21st, during the celebrations of Saint Rita, so she changed her name to Rita. Life for her was very difficult in Beirut, but humanitarian Rafed Yaldo and other volunteers helped her tremendously. They provided her with financial, emotional, and spiritual support. They consulted her through the ups and downs and made sure that her needs were met, but after a year-and-a-half, she had to find another country to flee to.
A family in France agreed to sponsor her to migrate to France, but after a terrorist act the family changed their mind. Rita was devastated but accepted it as God’s will. Then another organization from Italy agreed to accept a thousand refugees from Lebanon. Rita was number one thousand to be accepted.
Rita currently resides in Italy, living with Catholic nuns. Ten years after she had the dream about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, she had the honor at the age of 28 to meet with Pope Francis on March 13, 2018, representing the Iraqi Christians. She was so happy to see him that she wept in his arms and kissed his hands many times. She felt reborn by being the voice of Christian Iraqis. Having found Christ, she feels there is nothing more to fear from now on and that God put her on this journey because she has two messages for the world; to help Muslims find the truth; to help Christians look deeper into their religion and what role they play in it.