Brother David Johnson found inspiration among Syrian Christians
Brother David Johnson is a tall, bearded 34 year-old monk who fell in love with Syria and the Christian communities who live there.
"Before arriving in the Middle East, I did not even know that Christians lived there, but they are 2 million", he said.
Brother David lives, with other religious, in the monastery of Saint-Jacques Persian, in Qara, Syria. The community brings together eight nationalities, and no one wanted to flee the country despite the civil war.
It was Easter Monday in 2012 when a convoy of the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA) passed the monastery and Brother David waved to them from the tower, as he would have welcomed any neighbor in his native Colorado. But the situation in Syria is tense and the FSA is at war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Suspicious of strangers who do not seem to be afraid of them, they stopped, accusing Johnson of being "a spy in the pay of the Americans."
"Instead of panicking, my community immediately went to the church to begin the liturgy They began to pray and celebrate Mass. I was in God’s hands and felt no.. fear," said Johnson.
Feeling a strange peace and even joy, Brother David began to sing about the resurrection of Jesus to his captors in their native language. At first they were surprised, but then their hearts softened.
"They told me: ‘We have never heard this before; why not sing it again?’. So I did," recalled Johnson. "They began laughing and clapping."
The soldiers decided to bring the monk back to his monastery, but before that, they wished to show their friends the "American brother singing".
"They took me to sing the songs of the resurrection in front of a group of soldiers, and they clapped their hands! I thought I was dreaming! I felt like I had entered an alternate dimension," said Johnson.
Although the monk admits that his ability to speak the language of the soldiers probably contributed to his immediate release, he was convinced that the prayers of his brothers and the name of Jesus saved him that day. He advises all those concerned about Islamic terrorism in the Middle East to pray.
"Pray, pray, pray,. And trust in the wisdom of God."
Located in Qara, on the Lebanese border between Damascus and Homs, the St. Jacques Persian monastery dates from the sixth century. The religious order there is Catholic and Greek Melkite and called "the Antioch Unit". The head of the order, Mother Agnès-Mariam was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Unity of Antioch is composed of religious and residents of all nationalities working together to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict. The area around the monastery is a place of conflict.
This article was translated and edited from the orginal which appeared in the French edition of Aleteia.