After years of seeking to understand religion, Mounib has found peace in God, and hope and a family through the Salvos.
I was born and grew up in Pakistan, in a Sunni Muslim family. My great-grandfather was of high ranking in our home town, so my family was very well known. I spent my childhood surrounded by my family.
While studying at school, I made a lot of new friends, and also met some Shia Muslims in our neighbourhood. We also connected and became friends.
I was curious about the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims and asked my family, including my great-grandfather, many questions. As I grew older and went to college, I did further research. The questions were always on my mind.
At the end of 2004, after college, I opened a factory making tailors’ scissors and surgical instruments. This came to an end in 2009, when I discovered my business partner had been deceiving me.
In 2010, I converted to become a Shia Muslim. I only told one person in my family. That same year, I joined a Shia security company that provided services to all religious sites, and before long I was the city adviser for them.
In 2011, I got into a political discussion with a childhood friend and told him I had become Shia. Within days I was getting phone calls — death threats — from unknown numbers. A violent and dangerous group sent a letter to my family home, telling my father about my conversion. My dad, and his brother, were shocked, angry and upset, and worried about the impact on their families. My father convinced the local Imams that I was the only convert in the family.
I left home and moved to another city, but after a few months, returned as a security adviser for a major Shia event. I was giving a security guard a break and standing in a doorway, observing the street, when a bullet just missed my head. I saw two men, one on a motorbike, the other aiming a rifle at me. I turned to run, fell, and the bullet hit the door. God saved me.
I knew it was serious now. I moved to a city near Lahore and was always accompanied by an armed guard. Seven months later, I moved to Malaysia.
I had no plans to go anywhere else. I didn’t even want a ‘better’ life, but simply a life with freedom of religion.
Through a series of what I can only describe as miracles, I arrived in Australia in 2014. My first few years were spent in detention centres, including in Melbourne, and it was there that I met Major Colin Elkington, Salvation Army asylum seeker and refugee chaplain, who regularly visited the centre.
After receiving a bridging visa in 2017, I moved to the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, just across the road from the Salvos’ Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service. One day, Colin and I saw each other crossing the road, he remembered me, and invited me in. Colin and his wife Karen, who manages the service, helped me fill out documents for material aid and other assistance. They quickly became my friends, my mentors, my family.
In January 2019, I joined the Salvos as a volunteer. A few months later, In April, I resigned from my job in a grocery store and started volunteering a few days a week for the Salvos.
Kevin Amiri, who works at the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service and who also assists Colin at a Farsi-speaking Salvos corps (church), became a close and trusted friend and often talked to me about religion. Kevin gave me a Bible in Urdu (the national language of Pakistan) and I began to read it, often asking him, Colin and Karen many, many questions.
Colin spoke to me about the book of Matthew (in the New Testament of the Bible), and how we can bring our burdens to Jesus. He told me about the six-week Christianity Explained course, which I did, and I accepted Jesus as my Lord, Saviour and King.
I have found the peace I have been looking for my whole life. I don’t have family but I have friends and my Lord Jesus standing in the middle of everything.
The Salvation Army is just like my family, it’s like home, and I am happy to spend my time with them. I will forever be grateful to them.