On July 26, I announced my decision to join the Catholic Church. Hours earlier, a pair of jihadists had attacked a church in France and murdered a priest, Fr Jacques Hamel, while he was celebrating Mass.
Two months before that, I had begun studying one-on-one with a priest in London, reading Catholic books and immersing myself in the catechumen’s life. But I had no intention of going public with my conversion, not until after being received into the Church.
When news of the killing first broke, I knew next to nothing about Fr Hamel. Photos online showed an octogenarian priest with wispy white hair and a look of quiet, ordinary holiness.
This priest, this man, had been forced to kneel and had his throat slit in the name of ISIS – an evil act that demanded a response. So like any good millennial, I took to my Twitter account and wrote: “#IAmJacques Hamel. In fact, this is the right moment to announce I’m converting to Roman Catholicism.” It was an impulsive thing to do, not exactly in keeping with our Lord’s teaching to be as wise as serpents.
Over the next 48 hours, thousands of people re-tweeted me, and hundreds contacted me through social media. Then my announcement made its way to Christian media. Well-meaning journalists read my Wikipedia entry, noted that I’d been born and raised in Iran, and concluded: Fr Hamel’s final act had been to convert a Muslim.
Thousands more shared these news stories on Twitter and Facebook, usually accompanied by the famous saying of Tertullian that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”. I wished my road to Rome had been as easy as “Moslem Writer Moved by Priest’s Martyrdom to Convert to Catholicism” (an actual headline from a Catholic outlet). The real story was much longer and more complicated.
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