Marco has kindly taken the time to translate an article from Spanish that we think is informative enough to share here. Neither English nor Spanish are his first languages; therefore the translation may not be entirely accurate however it does get the intended message across:

From Judaism to the Evangelical Church. From Christianity to Islam. From Islam to the baha’i faith. Spiritual journeys that historically caused intransigencies and today cause social conflicts. This is the story of people who one day decided to change of creed.

To the Algerians Mohamed and Djamila Belhani their faith could cost their life. The supposed sin: to accept in a Muslim nation the postulates of the baha’i religion persecuted until death in some Arab countries. When they found out at work, several of Mohamed colleagues threaten kidnap his three year old son in order to take him away from the trusteeship of an “unfaithful”. The fear converted exile into the only hope. While his country bled in a civil war that buried more than 150,000 victims, the family went into exile in Spain, in 1994. But by then their spiritual journey had begun for several years.

Born in Oran, the couple meet at the University school of Algiers. Their share a flat at the campus with follower of the baha’i religion, not much used to express his beliefs. One afternoon he exposed to Mohamed a kind of a revelation: “There is another prophet after Muhammad”. And talked about the Persian Baha’u’llah, founder of the baha’i faith in 1844, like belief based one single God that reveals Himself through all the divine messengers. Without apostatizing of any, from Jesus Christ to Buddha. “I grew up under a more traditional than confessional Islam, just like the Catholicism in Spain. But since young age I was told that Muhammad was the last; my world was as big as this room, remembers Mohamed today, 43 years old, in his house of Cambrils (Tarragona). “In front of the Algerian society you could show rebellious, express opinions about what it does not please you. But to say that there was another Prophet after him… That you could not even imagine! It was as if you were moving to the enemy side”.

The first reaction of Mohamed was to strive to refute the arguments of his friend. The best way it occurred him to achieve it was to return to the house of its family, after receiving the master’s degree in Engineer and to take a summer to study the Quran, the Bible and several baha’i writings. “Religion in Arab countries is very important; as soon as somebody raises question concerning it, you try to solve it “, explains Djamila. Like her fiancé she also got interested in those sacred writings. And together they began to find similarities between the different religions, to question if it were possible to keep the best thing from each one. They began to suspect that to agglutinate them to all in a single one was not so preposterous. Finally they took the step. “The deep knowledge of the Quran helped us to embrace the baha’i faith, to evolve to a more complete religion “.

Soon they informed their relatives. Surprised, they received the news of the imminent wedding of the young pair under muslim and baha’i rites. “To my father I gave him the greatest disappointment of his life”, admits Mohamed. He stoped praying five times a day, no longer went to the mosque and replaced Ramadan with 19 day fast prior to each 21 of March, date of baha’i new year. Djamila also could not find understanding amongst their family: “My mother respected to me, but my brothers putted me aside”. After getting married they found a job in the State Company of Hidrocarburos and chose not to show in public their spiritual journey. Until Mohamed decided he was tired of hiding himself at the office to fast outside the Ramadan, or to justify his absence during the prayers in labour schedule.

During the fast prior to the 21 of March, a colleague invited him to go to the dining room of the company. Mohamed explained him the reason for his lack of appetite and his life had a radical change.

“Why did you have to tell him?” Djamila still ask. The rumour spread through out the company, amongst friends and neighbours. Many friends failed. Some pointed them in the street. The Algerian civil war was growing in the early nineties, and the couple, with two young children, felt the fear. Mohamed got a tourist visa for a month in Spain and the family went to Madrid (with the position). At the baha’i center in the capital they found financial aid. After much insisting, Mohamed managed to receive an asylum visa with a work permission. And had to start it all over, assembling electric devices; after three years Djamila got a depression: “This has been the tragedy of my life. To leave my house, to leave my people. Now we only go back to Algeria one week year during the summer. Although I miss to my family, I could never live there again. I only have memories of panic and intolerance”.

For six years, they are living in Cambrils. They feel free and they practice in family the rites of their belief. Mohamed today has double nationality: Spanish and Algerian. He keeps assembling electrical devices. But no longer speaks of his religion with.

“The persecution of baha’is coexists with its foundation and extends until our days, mainly in countries like Iran. The executions during Islamic revolution were a main issue. And they still are an oppressed minority “. This same accusation stated by Kasra Mottahedeh, Secretary General of the Spanish Baha’i Community Baha’i it has been confirmed by numerous international organisms that continue to appeal so that these people see their rights recognized.

In Spain, the Baha’i Community is one of the so called minority religions and has around three thousand followers. Although they do not have a high number of believers, they maintain have a constant number of newcomers familiar with the problems that confronted Mohamed and Djamila. Like Jose Luis Marques, 62 years old, who did not put in danger his life, but caused a good commotion in his parents house, little after he was order priest. He was 24 when he found in the baha’i faith a meaning for his existence. “Through study I understood that this religion explained better than any other why there is a plurality of beliefs”.

Thanks a lot Marco for providing this fascinating read. For those who speak Spanish you may read the article here.