CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Where baptism could have been fatal

HONG KONG (SE):  Becoming a Catholic did not come easily for Mario Joseph, whose baptismal name is Mario, the male version of Maria (our Mother Mary), whom he loves dearly. The Joseph, he says stands for St. Joseph. His real name is Sulaiman Ibinu Ahmad.

He was physically and mentally tortured by his family after he was baptised. He remembers how his family discovered him at a Catholic retreat centre and his father beat him so hard he lost consciousness.

When he woke, he was naked and his hands and feet were tied. He said he was locked in a room for 28 days without water or food, and hot chili was placed in his mouth and on his wounds.

His brother forced him to drink his own urine as a punishment. Then one day when he was asleep, his father entered the room, choked him and threatened to kill him unless he renounced his new-found faith.

He said at that moment, although he was extremely weak, he suddenly saw a bright light and shouted the name of Jesus. His father was so shocked, he fell on the floor and cut himself badly.

In the rush to get his father to hospital, his family forgot to lock the door, so Joseph left the house and took a taxi to the retreat centre where he stayed.

Back in his hometown, his family made a tombstone with his name on it. It lists the date of his baptism as the date of his death.

As the guest of the Holy Family English Community in Choi Hung on June 19, Joseph told the story of his conversion.

He began by asking the group, “How many problems do you have?” The majority answered countless. But Joseph reckons we only have six problems—society; family; financial; physical; mental and lastly spiritual.

He then picked out scriptural passages, which he says illustrate solutions to the six headaches and urged people to look, touch, read, eat and memorise the word of God from the bible.

While in his mother’s womb, she was advised to abort him, because of an infection. She rejected the doctor’s advice and decided to keep her baby. So as a baby, his mother dedicated him to God.

For 10 years, Sulaiman studied philosophy and theology. At the age of l8 he became an imam and preached in the mosque that Jesus Christ was not God.

He recalled that a person in the congregation once asked him who Jesus is. He felt that he did not know, only that he taught people he is not God.

But his curiosity was triggered to the extent that he started to read the whole of the Qur’an to find out. He was surprised to discover that the name of Jesus was mentioned 25 times while the prophet, Mohammad, only four times.

Mother Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Qur’an. In short it was through the Qur’an that he was lead to baptism.

Joseph said that he has not seen his family since and, although he receives death threats from extremists, he is not afraid to die.

“It is foolishness to fear death, because we are all eventually going to die one day and when we do we are with Christ,” he concluded.

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