Now a pastor, Ali has a very personal vision. In 2014 he addressed a conference in Jerusalem called At the Crossroads. He sees it as part of his mission to help re-unite the sons of Abraham.
Ali, a Kurd, was suffering from alcohol addiction when friends persuaded him to make Hajj (pilgrimage) to Islam’s holy city. It was in Saudi Arabia, where liquor is banned, and the religious ritual might cure him, they suggested. When he got there, he cried out to God for help, and fell asleep.
Jesus then appeared to him in a dream and touched him, saying:
“You believe in me now; leave this place.”
After taking a shower the next morning, he discovered what he thought was dust on the part of his chest Jesus had touched, but in fact the hair on his chest had turned white in the shape of a hand!
At the traditional celebration marking his return from Hajj, he announced to his incredulous family that he had seen Jesus in Mecca and had come back a Christian. He burst out crying in front of his wife and asked her forgiveness for the way he had treated her, clearly demonstrating a dramatic change in his life.
But for three years he had no access to a Bible and it was seven years before he met another Turkish Christian. He eventually started a church in Ankara, the capital, which he has recently handed over to trusted elders in order to begin a new church in Eastern Turkey, where he was raised.
At the Crossroads, hosted at Christ Church in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, was aimed at deepening the bonds of reconciliation between Arab Christians and Jewish followers of Jesus. It was attended by delegates from a number of Middle East countries including Iran, Egypt, Cyprus and Jordan.
Speaking in Turkish (translated through headsets for those who needed it), Ali spoke of how Abraham was also his ancestor, and how he saw it as part of his mission to help re-unite the children of Isaac and Ishmael (Abraham’s children by different wives). Illustrating how family division can cause lasting conflict among the children affected, he said it was no different for the descendants of Abraham who continue to be embroiled in much strife and contention with each other. But now it was time for reconciliation. Ali said,
“We have a very important ministry – to reconcile the world,”
But it could only be done through Jesus.
“Everybody in Turkey says they believe in God,” he said. “But people are persecuting me!”
In a further example of reconciliation, a Palestinian delegate from Hebron (where Abraham is buried) said:
“I was one of those who hated the Jews, but Jesus changed my life.”
Ali’s vision of Jesus totally changed his life and he carries a handprint on his chest to prove it. He believes that Jesus can reconcile the greatest of enemies, even the sons of Abraham whether descended from Isaac or Ishmael.
Photo of Ali by Charles Gardner
Story from Charles Gardner who attended the ‘At the Crossroads’ conference.