By Hadi Yahmid
Thirteen years ago, Vicente Mota Alfaro was a devout Catholic who regularly attended Sunday Masses and read the Bible daily. Today, he is not just a new Muslim, but is also the imam of the mosque of the Islamic Cultural Center of Valencia (CCIV). He is the first ever convert to Islam to hold the post and lead the Muslim congregation in the mosque in Spain. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the CCIV since 2005.
Muslim community leaders in Valencia say Alfaro was appointed to the prestigious post of imam due to his outstanding qualifications.
"He was chosen because of his vast religious knowledge," El-Taher Edda, secretary-general of the Islamic League for Dialogue and Coexistence, told IslamOnline.net.
He believes Alfaro's appointment sends a clear message of integration for converts who join the fold of Islam. Spanish converts have been on the rise recently, with local media reports noting that intellectuals, academics and anti- globalization activists make up the bulk of the new Muslims.
Spainhas an estimated Muslim minority of about at 1.5 million out of a total population of 40 million. Islam is the second religion after Christianity and has been recognized through the law of religious freedom, issued in July 1967.
When people ask Alfaro about the change of hearts and the journey from Christianity to Islam, he gives a simple answer.
"It was Allah's wish that Islam becomes my choice and my life,".
Alfaro was a 20-year-old high school student when he decided to become a Muslim.
"I read the holy Quran, I discovered the true story of Jesus Christ and then embraced Islam."
Recalling the beginning of his journey, Alfaro says he used to be a devout Catholic in his early youth.
"While my colleagues had no interest in religion, I used to go to the church every Sunday and read the Bible regularly.
"At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about Islam."
It was his conversations with his Muslim Algerian neighbor that introduced Alfaro to Islam.
"We were talking once and he said that all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve, and that we are all sons of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)," he recalled.
"I was surprised to find that Muslims and Arabs actually know Adam, Eve and Abraham."
The conversation motivated the young Catholic to dig for more information.
"The next thing I did was going to the library and borrowing a translated version of the Noble Quran."
He took the book home and began to read Islam's holy book carefully.
The turning point for Alfaro came when reading the Quranic story of Jesus Christ and the crucifixion incident.
"I used to read in the Gospel that Jesus is the son of God, and that God sent his son to earth to be killed and tortured to bring salvation to humanity. I always had a problem believing this." he remembers.
"I found the answers I was looking for when I read the Quran. I learnt that Jesus was not killed or crucified."
Muslims believe in Jesus (peace be upon him) as one of the great Prophets of God and hold him in high esteem.
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The story of Prophet Jesus in the Noble Quran touched the heart of Alfaro, who has since changed his name to Mansour.
"I instantly knew that the Quran is the true book of God. And I decided at this very moment that I wanted to become a Muslim."