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About this page: On this page I wanted to transcribe an article that really illustrates who I was and who I've become now. It is an article that was published in the Lancashire Evening Post and 3 other local papers in 2006. It has also been featured in many Christian magazines and news letters. I hope it helps you understand where I've come from and where I'm going.
From childhood, Sharif Gulsher was intended by his father to enter the Islamic Priesthood -yet he turned his back on the family faith to be a Christian Minister He says his decision was partly due to the violence and abuse in his apparently devout religious background and partly because study has shown him that Christianity was his way to God.
Sharif, who lives in Preston but grew up in East Lancashire, has had a tough and complicated life. Mohammed, the man he always called father, was a drugs dealer. "It was mainly heroin. I have seen thousands of pounds worth of it on the table at home." he says. Mohammed could also be vicious, particularly towards Sharif's English mother Elenor. "He ruled with a rod of iron. She was severely beaten on a number of occasions for trying to be English. She pretended to embrace Islam in front of him, but when my father was away on business she was English. When he was home, she was a Muslim. She played the game. He broke her arms, broke her leg, and put her in hospital on different occasions He was a strict, twisted disciplinarian, a dominating dictator."
But he was keen to have his son enter the priesthood. Recalls Sharif: "He sent me to the mosque from being very young. He was grooming me, training me under tuition from the resident priest, the Molvee or Imam. I used to go immediately after school every day. In the school holidays I used to go four or five times a day. I was very strong in my attitude and very fervent. The priest said I would become an exceptional leader or preacher in the Islamic faith."
Sharif says despite his fathers business and his violence, he was a pillar of the local Islamic community. "Why is that surprising?" he asks. "The Taliban are the most fundamentalist of the Moslems in the world - and they are the biggest drug dealers in the world. He was very well respected within the community. He was charitable and very kind to children and he gave a lot of money to the promotion of Islam. One of the five pillars of the faith is the Zakah, the contribution or donation of 2.5% of your total income. My father gave much more than that."
His mother schooled him in her spiritualist beliefs when his father was away. Sharif says: "I was very confused. In the end I changed. I decided this so-called father of mine was not the example a son should have."
His mother and Mohammed eventually divorced - and then Sharif found out that he wasn't really his son. He spent the next few years living rough with his mother and at one stage served a period of borstal training.
When he emerged, Mohammed had won custody of him and he was taken back to Pakistan to be schooled in Islam. But learning Arabic and Urdu proved to be very hard as he was Dyslexic. He said: "I used to get beaten by the teachers and they used to treat me like a dunce."
On his mother's death, they returned to England and Sharif joined the Royal Army Ordinance Corps for four years until he was disabled whilst on active service. Then his father entered him into the "Family Business" as a debt collector, minder and middle man.
His life changed when he met an old friend who had converted to Christianity and who told him the Jesus Christ was the son of God. Sharif said: "That's blasphemy to a Muslim. I decked him - just like that. Then I started to feel guilty. Until then, I didn't care about my violent doings, didn't care about the people I hurt, I didn't care about the world I lived in. All I cared about was making myself feel as good as I could within the circles I was in.
"I tried to take an overdose. I ended up in a psychiatric unit and they said it would take a long time to get my life right. I came out of hospital and said I was going to kill myself. I couldn't cope with the turmoil I was in and I wasn't going to tell anyone this time. But I ended up going into a church which was very hard for me at the time. They were singing Hymns and praising God and I felt a peace and a deep love."
He began to study the Bible and says this convinced him Christianity was the true path. His father cut him off as did his Mosque Leaders, "I lost my family and I lost all my friends. I was cut off from my culture." But encouraged by Christian mentors he went to Bible College and was ordained a minister.
He was pastor of a Cleethorpes church where he met wife Vanda. Now the couple live in Preston and he is an Evangelist minister preaching in the Methodist church as a local preacher, also on the Free churches of Uganda national council. He works in international outreach with the destitute and dispossessed of many nations and he works to raise money for the street and tree children of east africa. Sharif says he does not quarrel with those that follow Islam: "I'm not here to condemn people. Some Muslims are the most gentle, kind and most hospitable people you could meet. My testimony is not against the people who love Islam. My testimony is about the truth that has set me free."
More detailed testimony and the work we do please check, our website www.eastafricanoutreach.org.uk
Posted in the Daily Mail and Lancashire Evening Post in 2006, it was also published in many other local Lancashire news papers as well as some Christian Magazines
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