Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 19 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Branwalator of Jersey
home iconNews
line break icon

American Carmelite Brother in Syria Released From Capture After Singing Songs About Jesus

Zoe Romanowsky - published on 07/22/15

Brother David Johnson shares an amazing story about his life in Syria

In a Carmelite monastery in western Syria, 34 year-old Colorado native, Brother David Johnson, is living out his religious life. 

A Princeton graduate, Brother Johnson went to Syria to study Arabic and ended up falling in love with the country and the people. He also heard God’s call to religious life there and now lives in the St. James the Persian Carmelite Monastery in Qara with a group of monks and nuns from eight different nations.

On Easter Monday three years ago, Brother Johnson was in the tower of the monastery and waved to some vehicles he saw in the distance. The next thing he knew, soldiers from the Syrian army were on the monastery’s doorstep and took him away, suspecting he might be an American spy. 

“They said ‘what is he doing here, he’s probably just playing like he’s a monk’,” Brother Johnson told Catholic News Agency on June 22, 2015.

Immediately, the community went into the church and began a liturgy to pray for Brother Johnson. IN the video interview above, he told Aleteia’s Zoe Romanowsky, that although he considers himself "a real wimp," he felt no fear and was at peace, and even joy.

" coud see they were beautiful people, crated in the image of God," said Brother Johnson.

Brother Johnson began to sing resurrection songs to his captors in their native language, and to talk to them about heaven and Jesus’ love for them. They began to open up, and kept asking Brother Johnson to sing them again again.

"I was singing to Muslims about the resurection of Jesus Christ, who conquered death. And suddenyly they turned the car around to take me back to the monastery, " recalls Brother Johnson.  

But before they did that, though, they stopped and asked him to sing the song to a crowd of soldiers. 

"I was blown away" said Brother Johnson.

In the video interview above, Brother Johnson sings a few lines of the song he sang that day and shares more details about his capture and release, as well as some thoughts about the extremism in Syria and the region. 

Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content producer for Aleteia.

Christians in the Middle East
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
Reasons Catholics should read the Bible
Bret Thoman, OFS
Traces of miracles remain at the birthplace of St. Rita of Cascia
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's formula for defeating evil in the world
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
'An American Blessed': A documentary to thank God in 2021
Bret Thoman, OFS
An exorcist teaches 4 steps to forgive
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.