Derya Little, the author of From Islam to Christ: One Woman’s Path Through the Riddles of God (Ignatius Press, £12.99), writes under a pseudonym for obvious reasons. She grew up as a Muslim in Turkey and provides an interesting glimpse into a world where, in his new secular republic, Kemal Atatürk had imposed an “Islam-lite culture”. Women were not allowed to cover their hair or wear the hijab – “You were not supposed to be too Muslim” – but neither were you meant to be anything else.
Into this ambivalent society Little brought her own youthful questions, finally concluding that Islam was based on fear “and the utter submission that results from that fear”. She reminisces: “When one’s starting point is fear, not love, mercy or grace, this fear becomes the heavy hand.”
Her home life did not help. Her parents divorced in her early teens and her father left the family home. There were constant money worries, pressures at school, an absentee parent. Given these difficulties, and having investigated the shortcomings and contradictions within Islam, Little unsurprisingly lost her faith in her teens. She drank heavily and became depressed. In her 20s she experienced two failed relationships with secularised Muslim men and endured two abortions.
Her journey to the Church was long, chequered – and providential. In 1999, she volunteered to become a Turkish language tutor to Therese, a married American Christian woman working as a missionary in Ankara. Little instinctively sensed that Therese was someone who had “a glimmer of light … if nothing else, curiosity about where that light came from brought me back time after time”. At the same time, at university in Ankara, she read the Inquisitor’s speech in The Brothers Karamazov: “The first time I had comprehended what it means to live in a fallen world.”
Deeply drawn to the Evangelical faith of her Christian friends, Little nonetheless felt afraid to convert. Christians in Turkey were treated as second-class citizens and there was constant, subtle persecution. Finally, in October 2002, she announced to her new friends: “I think today is a wonderful day to become a Christian.” Nonetheless, after her (full immersion) baptism, the author’s restless intelligence forced her to ask further questions about the Christian religion she had joined.
A chance encounter with a Catholic convert pointed her towards Mark Shea’s By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition. Afterwards, Little found a French Jesuit missionary priest in Ankara to give her formal instruction. She finally entered the Church when studying as a postgraduate at Durham University.
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