To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in awhile.

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Easter Freedom

Adam Francisco and Hicham Chehab

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Given his background and upbringing, Hicham Chehab makes an unlikely missionary.

A Muslim in Lebanon during the Civil War between Christians and Muslims, his first experiences with Christianity were violent and threatening. He was attacked, and his brother was killed, by Christians.

Trained by a Muslim extremist group, he was taught how to use rocket launchers, mortars and rifles, and was told, "If you want to shoot straight, imagine that there is a Christian in your sights." Eventually, he participated in the Civil War as a sniper.

Today, he is a missionary at Salam Church, located at Peace Lutheran Church in Lombard. The Lutheran Arabic Church, which just celebrated its first full year of existence, is attended by refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Palestine. It is called Salam, the word for peace in Arabic and Persian, because, he said, only the Prince of Peace, Jesus, can bring reconciliation to the hearts of people in the Middle East.

Covered in a white robe, a cross hanging from his neck, Chehab spoke Sunday morning to parishioners at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Barrington, tracing his unusual path to Jesus.

He gestured violently as he told St. Matthew worshipers how a Christian boy attacked him when he was just 7 with a piece of wood with a protruding nail. He still bears on his forehead a scar from the attack.

He also recalled how his brother, his only sibling, a captain in a Muslim militia, was killed by a Christian militia while trying to negotiate a truce. In reaction, Chehab, at the time a student at the American University in Beirut, bought two pistols and a silencer to campus, intending to ambush his Christian enemies.

But his studies led him to the teachings of Jesus, particularly The Sermon on the Mount, with its exhortation to "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

"I who was stalking my enemies with a gun and a silencer at night heard for the first time, 'love your enemy.' I felt this was superhuman or ridiculous. My enemy was somebody who killed my only brother, my only sibling, the shoulder I used to cry on."

He devoted himself to making peace between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. Eventually, a meeting with a Lutheran pastor led him to join the People of the Book Lutheran Outreach and continue his work in the United States.

Chehab's presentation made a strong impression on parishioners. Barrington resident Bill Hartman said, "I thought it was terrific. I have a couple of Muslim friends, one from Iran and one from Pakistan. We often talk religion, and I'm trying to learn as much as I can about Islam. Hicham's life story is just incredible. A guy with this experience should travel the United States and the world and spread his message."

The above article,"A Christian missionary, who grew up a Muslim extremist," was written by Steve Zalusky for the Daily Herald."

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