Having grown up in a Muslim household, Lectureship speaker Wissam Al-Aethawi is not what one would call a stereotypical Christian. However, Dr. Dan Williams, vice president of Church Relations and Lectureship coordinator, believes this is what makes his story such a compelling one.
“Wissam has been on a unique life journey,“ Williams said. “(He was) raised in Iraq as a Muslim; turned to atheism; then by the grace of God discovers the Gospel; becomes first a Christian, then an evangelist here in America. It’s quite a story.”
In his mid-teenage years, Al-Aethawi began to reject Islam and search for “beauty” and “goodness.” He began reading literature, which led him to the Bible. In college, Al-Aethawi began to believe in the truth of the Bible and thought the words of the Gospel were so powerful to him because everything he read was different than how he was raised.
“To me, the keyword is ‘new,’ ” Al-Aethawi said. “The Gospel was new to me when I first read it. When you see a new thing for the first time, you want to share it with others. You want to tell your friends about the new movie that you saw or the new book that you read, and see how they react to it. It’s that excitement that makes me passionate about the Gospel.”
This passion led to a complete change in the way he lived his life. He said he began to lose friends and religious authorities in his neighborhood began to threaten him.
“My life started to have a sense of direction,” Al-Aethawi said. “The sense of direction has given me a hope that I did not have before I became a Christian. The hope that sounds like, ‘It won’t last forever. You’ll be alright. It will end, and the ending will be eternally happy.’”
Al-Aethawi began visiting churches in Baghdad and asking to be baptized. After 12 years, a British missionary agreed to baptize Al-Aethawi in a bathtub. He later came to the U.S. and began working in ministry.
According to Williams, the theme of Lectureship – the revolutionary message of the book of Romans, aligns perfectly with Al-Aethawi’s life story and subsequent message.
“Wissam has not only lived in a Muslim culture but he has clearly done his homework and is knowledgeable about that religion,” Williams said. “In our increasingly diverse world I believe every Christian would benefit from accurate information about Islam, and that is what they will receive from Wissam’s presentations.”
Al-Aethawi will be speaking in chapel Monday, Sept. 25 and will be giving a series of lectures in the Administration Auditorium at 3 p.m. titled, “The Temple: The third of two sacred places,” “The Judaizers” and “Is Allah God?”
There will also be a signing of Al-Aethawi’s book, “Islam in Christ’s Eyes” at 4 p.m. following his presentation on Wednesday, Sept 27. Al-Aethawi has recently finished writing his second book, an autobiography titled, “I am an Arab, and I am a Christian,” which will be released later this year.