(Insert Date of Submission)
My name is Selim. I am from the Ottoman Empire where I worked as a Cassoum with my job description entailing property handling for the orphans in my city. The city of Salonica was my home, where I lived with my wife, three sons, and my sister-in-law. You should know my house was one of the largest in the city standing on a pleasantly vast property with an incredible view of the city and its residents. It is no wonder the government moved so fast to posses it upon my exile. I am originally a Muslim, having grown in Islam from birth. However, I find the Islamic religion lacking in many areas, and as I grew older, the thirst I felt for more knowledge pertaining to religion enlarged every day. The very origins of the Koran are questionable to me. Because the set ideologies ought to have originated from somewhere, I found no record of said origin in the Koran, and among the Islamic religious leaders. It was therefore my decision to find the true religion, one that does not tolerate sin and acknowledges flaws I have seen among men.
Part of my plan was to look into every religion and find out the truth about life, sin, and God. I went to the existing communities in my City to see their religious beliefs. These communities were the Roman Catholics, the Armenian religious leaders and even the Greek philosophers and leaders. All the obtained information was filled with the superstitions beliefs the people had and in some cases, the religious practices were performed for idols in their temples and other places of worship. Having heard of a savior that calls for all sinners to come to him with all their burdens so he can give them relief, I decided to learn more of said savior. However, none of the books I had read offered such readings. Because life proved unsatisfactory, I decided to leave my occupation with the local government and become a merchant in my native city.
As a merchant, I was able to move to other cities including Smyrna and Constantinople where I was able to carry out more of my research. No information was forthcoming until one day when travelling on the steamer along the Gulf of Salonica. I met a Christian missionary of the Americans who sold me my first Bible written in the Armenian dialect and in turn, began my journey into Christianity. With time, I learnt how to read the strange letters and my soul felt renewed by the scriptures. Acting as a father and husband, I introduced my family to Christianity and discovered my lack of knowledge with regard to the religion. The concept of God’s son dying as a pitiful man was confusing. As a God, he ought to be more powerful than a mere human and mighty enough to avoid death or if it had to happen, die with a lot of courage. However, I was not deterred as my thirst for knowledge and desire to solve all the mysteries of the world and religion was at that time gained momentum and aided me in progressing forward.
Word came to Salonica that there were men in Constantinople who preached on Christianity and had answers to all of the questions newly converted Christians might have. I was obviously very interested in going to Constantinople as I had many questions that needed answering for my complete understanding of the scriptures. However, there was a problem to this part of my conversion. Following Christians meant I had to openly declare my change in religion and in turn, denounce all rights I had to my property and position as one of Salonica’s respectable men. With all the outcomes properly weighed and the Bible’s reassurance that my efforts will not be in vain I finally managed to master enough courage and travel to Constantinople with my Bible in hand.
In Constantinople, I met with the American missionaries who took it upon themselves to provide the aid I needed in understanding the Biblical scriptures. Despite the constant caution given, I felt ready to stand in front of my fellow men and preach to aid them in seeing the light. Nonetheless, the missionaries discouraged me as they felt such an act would be catastrophic as my family was still in Salonica. Therefore, I instead went to the headquarters of the American missionaries where I continued to study the Bible, improve my abilities to reason, and assess situations to my advantage. The headquarters proved to be safe as it was far away from my home. It is when I was there that I wrote a letter to my eldest son and instructed him to bring my family and his aunt to Constantinople. A most fortunate timing as at the same time, the government managed to discover my conversion to Christianity.
In retaliation, all my property was seized and the people I once considered brothers bayed for my blood and that of my family’s. On the other hand, life in Constantinople proved safe for my family and I as my conversion became a guarded secret among the missionaries and people that knew me from my old life. It was the move to the shores of Bosphorus that caused this sad chapter in my life as the people found out on my change in religions and sought to teach me a lesson. However, I am solely responsible for their discovery as my determination to preach to my people that drove me to speak freely about Christianity in public. It was then decided to move us to Malta where some security was guaranteed. We landed in Valetta first, a very clean and orderly city from which we managed to travel to Malta, our destination. However, I was unwelcome in the whole country as my betrayal to Islam became a known story and my name reached all parts of the country. These factors made it impossible for my family and me to procure passports. It is therefore no wonder that our escape was riddled with tremendous fear and feelings of abandonment as with my family, I left the only home I have ever known.
It is important to note that the Christian missionaries worked in my country without being harassed by any Muslim. The Ottoman Empire can tolerate other religions but cannot tolerate the idea of losing one of their own to a religion considered fake and untrue. Islam is taught children as a way of creating firm foundations in the same. The idea of one of these children opting to convert is unfathomable and traitors are not treated kindly in Ottoman Empire. Changes came upon the empire and in turn, made Christianity a less dangerous religion. First, the law was passed to abolish laws that dictated death as punishment for abandoning Islam. In turn, war broke out with Russia and two Christian countries fought for Turkey prompting a declaration of Christianity being a true religion along with Islam. Gradually, the people in Ottoman Empire made it easier for me to practice the preaching for which I had longed by absorbing Christianity.
My journey has taken me through different cities of the Ottoman Empire. While Valetta proved to be the cleanest and Salonica is my home, they both lacked the Christian missionaries whom I sought for answers to the many questions I possessed. Constantinople is therefore an ideal city for me because of the many Christian missionaries. In addition, it’s people were kind to me unlike those in my own city that sought to murder my family and Valetta in which I spent very minimal time. It is also, where I learnt more about Christianity in the safe haven of the missionaries’ home.