This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Finding refuge in Spain

Photo: Maryam, Connie Byler and Koroush enjoying tea at the Byler home. Photo provided by Dennis Byler.

“I saw the Jesus miracles with my own eyes!” exclaimed Koroush.

He explained that when his mother, Maryam, began to pray—after choosing to follow Christ—his grandfather, who was gravely ill, slowly became well. His aunt, who couldn’t get pregnant, became pregnant. And they, Koroush and Maryam, were able to escape when it is nearly impossible.

Koroush and Maryam have lost everything, but they feel they have what they need with Jesus.

In Iran, Maryam and her family led a pleasant life. They were from an educated, middle-class background, and Maryam worked in a hospital where she was well-loved. Eighteen-year-old Koroush enjoyed common conveniences such as a smartphone, going to parties and being with friends. When he looked toward the future, he hoped to study pharmaceutical science in a university in Europe and return to his country to begin his own business.

However, around two years ago, Maryam became depressed after her family faced some medical and economic challenges. “At the same time, I felt belittled simply for being a woman, and began to resent the teachings that promoted that way of thinking,” said Maryam. She didn’t feel at peace or that her prayers were being answered. She felt trapped as she lacked the freedom to decide what to wear or what to think. A great heaviness fell on her.

Maryam was accompanied during this time by a co-worker who had noticed that she was not herself. This same person revealed that she was a Christian and shared her testimony. Maryam immediately decided to follow Jesus and she says that her whole life changed. Soon, five family members also accepted Jesus. Together with a small group of other followers, they met on Sundays in the evening, taking turns in varying safe-houses. During their meetings, they spoke in hushed voices as they studied stories from the Bible. When able, they would sometimes sing and often would watch Persian language Christian TV.

One night, Maryam and Koroush were on their way to a worship meeting—running late—when they saw two police vehicles in front of the secret meeting house. They knew they had been discovered. After a phone call to a close family member, they immediately went into hiding. After traveling and hiding in a total of six different locations, they arrived in Spain, hoping to continue on to Great Britain.

After a few days in Madrid, Koroush said, “We were not allowed to travel anymore. It was frightening to be discovered at the airport with false passports and to be taken aside. And even more frightening to spend the night in a cell, not understanding the language and not knowing what was going to happen. The following morning, we had to go to court and the judge gave us political asylum.” The Spanish authorities connected them with a Spanish nongovernmental organization, which supports and resettles refugees.

Now settled in Burgos, Spain, Maryam and Koroush are being kept busy through connections to the community and the local Mennonite church, Comunidad Anabautista Unidas. Their time is filled with language study, cultural classes, and building new relationships.

“People in Spain are incredible,” observes Maryam. “We can trust them easily, as they are usually honest, very friendly, relaxed, talkative, and like to be helpful. People are comfortable not following all the rules, just trying to achieve a better life. They are poorer than we were back home, but live well, enjoying their families, and don’t allow money to worry them!”

Maryam and Koroush feel that their needs are completely taken care of. “In our culture when we help a person, he or she helps back when possible, and that is what we do. We are getting much help here,” said Koroush.

“Comunidad Anabautista Unidas has been doing their best to make Maryam and Koroush feel loved and welcomed,” said Connie Byler, long-term Mennonite Mission Network international worker in Spain. “The church has come together in giving Spanish lessons, and reaching out in friendship and hospitality. We are excited because they will be joining us at our three-day church retreat.”

“The church in Spain is a new different experience of freedom!” Maryam said. “The singing is loud, but we feel very comfortable.”

**Names and locations may have been changed for safety.

Anabaptist World

Anabaptist World Inc. (AW) is an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement. We seek to inform, inspire and Read More

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