Diana Tomas, half-Assyrian

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Posted by andreas from dialin-145-254-095-171.arcor-ip.net ( on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 at 5:02AM :

From a friend


Ordinary Person

In Every City there are thousands of ordinary people with extra ordinary stories. Thereís a book waiting to be written in so many people, but the book is never written. Ordinary people. I want to talk to one tonight. My ordinary person tonight is Diana. She is attractive, young, dark eyed dark haired.

Dr Moyes Where abouts were you born?

Diana In Israel

Dr Moyes In Israel. So are you Jewish?

Diana No

Dr Moyes Now you were born in Israel but you are not Jewish. The majority of people born in Israel are Jewish

Diana Thatís true. My Mother is Palestinian and my Father is Asyrian.

Dr Moyes So thatís an interesting background, Palestinian and Asyrian.

Diana It is

Dr Moyes What would you have called yourself when you were living in Israel? A Palestinian or Asyrian orÖ

Diana On my birth certificate itís Israeli/Arab.

Dr Moyes Israeli/Arab.

Diana Yes

Dr Moyes You speak Arabic?

Diana I understand more than I speak.

Dr Moyes Can you read Arabic, which is even harder?

Diana I can. I can read Arabic yes.

Dr Moyes Well thatís interesting. How long did you live in Israel?

Diana Till I was nine.

Dr Moyes And then you came?

Diana To Australia

Dr Moyes Why did your family shift to Australia?

Diana I think Dad realised that opportunities for us were not very good, being in the minority there and he had a sister in Western Australia so she sponsored us to come.

Dr Moyes Was it a big family?

Diana Not at the time. Iíve got five sisters and one brother now yes.

Dr Moyes So itís a good solid family. What work did your Father do?

Diana He was an Electrical Contractor

Dr Moyes So he was able to continue that when he came to Australia?

Diana Yes he was.

Dr Moyes Okay. And was it a very cohesive family?

Diana It was. I think it was hard for them starting off in Australia. I remember we lived in an asbestos house with just one room. And while Dad built the house in front and then we moved into that. It was hard for them yes.

Dr Moyes So like many immigrants coming to the country you came with nothing and he had to build whatever you had with your hands?

Diana Yes.

Dr Moyes What was your school days like? Was it difficult coming from another country. I mean I can remember at school looking at kids and we called them dagoís and wogs andÖ

Diana We never had anything like that at school. I remember my sister and I had to go down one grade. We had learnt four languages in Israel, but our English wasnít that good so when they put us down one year we made advances in the English and caught up with the other kids.

Dr Moyes Your English is perfect so obviously that year really helped you.

Diana Yes it did.

Dr Moyes What happened at high school?

Diana We had to go to a high school which was nearly Ĺ an hour away, that was the nearest high school to where we lived, and we used to catch the train. A year after we came to Australia one of the girls in school had invited us to Sunday School and I went to Sunday School and they said does anyone here want to ask Jesus into their heart and I did.

Dr Moyes So you became a Christian at a relatively early age?

Diana Yes

Dr Moyes Was that difficult with your parental background?

Diana At first they didnít mind us going to Sunday School but then when I started to read my bible, I think probably I read my bible a lot because I just found it so interesting. Mum and Dad were a bit worried that maybe weíd got involved in some cult. So then they started to say no we couldnít go to church because the people who ran the Sunday School also took us to church.

Dr Moyes I guess if you had lived in Israel and you were reading particularly the Old Testament, there would be many place names that would be familiar to you and there would be some history even though you had and Arabic/Palestinian/Syrian background.

Diana Yes. Mum and Dad were Roman Catholic so we had to go to mass first before we went to the Sunday School but the fact that it started to take a strong part in our life, the whole thing about believing in Jesus got them really worried.

Dr Moyes Weíll come back to that in a moment. What about sport at this time were you interested?

Diana Yes I did sport whatever other kids did running, hockey.

Dr Moyes What about boyfriends?

Diana No I never had any boyfriends then. Too busy studying

Dr Moyes Oh, come off it youíve got a gorgeous smile and lovely dark eyes, theyíd be queuing up at the door!

Diana No I never had any boyfriends.

Dr Moyes You kept them at an arms distance.

Diana No I didnít have to do anything.

Dr Moyes What did you decide to do when you left school?

Diana I went nursing I felt I wanted to do nursing. My sister who was a year older than me, she was the oldest. She did nursing and she kept raving about it so I got interested and thought thatís what Iíll do

Dr Moyes So did you graduate as a nurse?

Diana I did as a registered nurse

Dr Moyes And did you do general nursing, or did you develop in midwifery or any other areas?

Diana No. After I did general nursing I specialised in spinal and orthopaedics

Dr Moyes And was that of great interest?

Diana It was, yes.

Dr Moyes Did you work within the surgical theatre?

Diana No I worked in the spinal unit after I did the post graduate course.

Dr Moyes And that would include people suffering from Paraplegia?

Diana Yes. Perth had probably one of the best spinal units in the Southern Hemisphere there was a guy there Sir George Bedbrooke who was quite a founder of the spinal unit and quite intelligent in that area. He used to go around the world speaking on spinal injuries.

Dr Moyes I met him and also met one of the wonderful people who came from India a doctor by the name of Mary, Dr Mary Burgees. And she went to that Perth Spinal Unit and as a result had the various vertebrae fused together and allowed her to sit up and then become a surgeon.

Diana Wow. I didnít know that.

Dr Moyes From a wheelchair. And she became one of the worldís leading leprosy reconstructionist surgeons.

Diana Yes I think I read about her.

Dr Moyes Under the famous Dr Paul Brown.

Diana Yes thatís right.

Dr Moyes And she could only operate on hands and feet and face because she wasnít able to stand up to work on chest or abdomen But again most of the leprosy patients had deformities with hands and feet and face so
Dr Mary Burgees became a very, very wonderful surgeon. And I met her in Perth when she was at that spinal unit with Sir George.

Diana Well thatís interesting. I never knew that.

Dr Moyes I was a generation before you Diana, but was there. So after you graduated and worked in the spinal unit what were you doing at that time? Did you have other interests was the church of strong interest did you develop interest in music or philately or flying kites orÖ

Diana I think the church was quite a place of interest for me and I was involved in the church. Also in the 70ís I always felt I wanted to go to Saudi or too a Muslim country.

Dr Moyes Now why was that? Because you were (a) A Christian and (b) if you were going to discount Australian Citizenship for the moment, your experience in the Middle East wasnít in Saudi Arabia

Diana I think because of my Arabic routes, I wanted to go back to a place where they spoke Arabic and so I had a drawing towards the Middle East.

Dr Moyes So what did you do about it?
Diana I tried to go with a nursing agency but every time God closed the door and I couldnít go.

Dr Moyes Yes I do know the nursing agencies recruit for Saudi Arabia and have often taken British nurses often the girls It was because I had a television program in Saudi Arabia. I was getting letters from English speaking people living there as pilots, and nurses, I remember different people writing to my program.

Diana It is very restricted there but I wanted to go there.

Dr Moyes You couldnít have a drink of beer
Diana No.

Dr Moyes For example no alcohol allowed.

Diana You have to cover up very modest

Dr Moyes Cover up when you go out no bikinis allowed and a lot of the British nurses sometimes flaunted that. And there were a couple of famous murders you might remember.

Diana No I donít

Dr Moyes Oh yes. So anyway God didnít want you to get into that messy environment so He shut the door on Saudi Arabia.

Diana He did and then I went to Bible College and while I was in Bible College I felt God was calling me

Dr Moyes But you canít do much nursing in a Bible College.

Diana No I was still nursing just to support myself.

Dr Moyes So what were you learning?
Diana It was called Hebron Bible College I was just learning quite a few things.

Dr Moyes About the Bible

Diana About the Bible

Dr Moyes So you would have a good Christian basis for your life

Diana Yes

Dr Moyes And be able to witness to others

Diana Yes, and I did that for 2 years and also worked at the church for a few years in the area of pastoral care and counselling.

Dr Moyes Now often when your getting background learning like that itís because God is preparing you for something bigger.

Diana Yes.

Dr Moyes What happened?

Diana While I was at Bible College I felt that God was saying I was going to go somewhere I was not going to be in Perth and it was strange because I always thought I would stay in Perth. And one day I was at a prayer meeting and the pastor had a prophetic word for me. He said ĎYour going to go to Pakistan and when he said that I thought well that must be what that feeling is that I feel Iím not going to be here and I said to him are you sure Iím going to Pakistan? He said well thatís what I get. Anyway I wasnít too happy about that. Because I didnít want to go to Pakistan. And I shortly after that I had a pain in my neck and when I asked God Why I had this pain in my neck I felt God was saying Iím being stubborn and rebellious because when I went to Bible College I said God Iíll go wherever You want me to go but when He saidÖ

Dr Moyes Dangerous thing to say Diana.

Diana When He said go to Pakistan I thought no I donít want to go there

Dr Moyes Okay. What happened?

Diana So then I asked God to forgive me and the pain left immediately and then I started to find out about Pakistan and prepare myself for Pakistan.

Dr Moyes So did you go then with a Christian organisation to Pakistan?

Diana I did but it was seven years after I got that word

Dr Moyes Did you prepare for that during the seven years.

Diana I did.

Dr Moyes Such as doing language study?

Diana No I couldnít do the language study but I just prepared in whatever area God showed me to prepare and every time Iíd say Lord Iím ready to go but the Lord was saying no your not ready yet.

Dr Moyes Not yet. The apostle Paul had to wait in Tarsus before God called him to come to Antioch to go on the missionary journeyís and it was thirteen years he had to wait.
Diana Yes, when I learnt that I was quite amazed actually because when you read it you think he went straight away.

Dr Moyes Actually if you count the time he was in Jerusalem and also in the dessert there was about seventeen years of preparation. So God says to you seven years my dear.

Diana Well He didnít say seven years I just didnít know until I left.

Dr Moyes Until the seven years had gone.

Diana Yes thatís right.

Dr Moyes Now did you join a Christian organisation?

Diana It was a Christian relief and development organisation.

Dr Moyes So an aid organisation?

Diana Yes.

Dr Moyes Two packets there

Diana Yes

Dr Moyes What kind of work were you doing when you arrived in Pakistan?

Diana When I went they wanted a secretary and so I had to do a crash course in computers and that

Dr Moyes You're trained as a nurse, youíve got special abilities in working with spinal injuries and you end up doing a computer!

Diana Thatís right. Well thatís what they wanted and actually I enjoyed that more than nursing.

Dr Moyes Okay.

Diana But I did use my nursing skills and experience.

Dr Moyes How did you relate with the general population in Pakistan?

Diana Because for the last seven years I just really felt I didnít belong in Australia and Iím sure that was God just unsettling me.

Dr Moyes Urging you on.

Diana Yes when I arrived in Pakistan I thought oh this is where I belong. I felt right at home.

Dr Moyes Did you?

Diana Yes.

Dr Moyes Was it because of the Arabic feel of the country?

Diana No. It was because I was in the centre of Godís will. That was why.

Dr Moyes What kind of work did you do day by day, Diana?

Diana Typing letters, filing, quite often I was called on to visit Afghans whose relatives were sick and so I had many opportunities to go and visit Afghans.

Dr Moyes Now would they have been refugees or people who just crossed the border?

Diana They were refugees a lot of them.

Dr Moyes Right so there was a deep emptiness within them being refugees

Diana Yes. We mainly worked with Afghan refugees in the camps

Dr Moyes Did you have any language difficulties?

Diana Pashtu was quite difficult and I started learning Pashtu.

Dr Moyes What kind of work did you do day by day apart for the work on the computer?

Diana First thing we did was to have our time together as a team in the morning and that was time of praise and worship and prayer, and that probably went from one and a half hours to three hours eventually because we felt God wanted us to really focus on prayer. Then we would go the office at about 11:00am we had our projects that we had to oversee we had proposals we had to write to different donor agencies. It was quite a busy time really.

Dr Moyes Now the last 20 years has been a terribly unsettling time right through that crescent of countries running from the Central Soviet with all the 'Istans down into Afghanistan and Pakistan and so on. They have been areas of a lot of turmoil. Internal fightingís in Iran, in Iraq, youíve got problems of terrorism, youíve got extreme Muslim fundamentalists, conflicts, youíve got self determination, the desire to have a number of republics, particularly in the north of Pakistan. Youíve had Russia invading. Thereís been a dreadful amount of turmoil. Did you get caught up in any of that?

Diana We did a lot of fanatical people in Pakistan many times we had our names in the newspaper in fact I had my name on the front page of the newspaper with another Western Australian girl. The headlines said Ďwe had converted 100,000 Afghans and we couldÖ

Dr Moyes Wow! That would make you one of the biggest evangelists in world history.

Diana Yes and we could have been killed and we had a spade of articles for about a month where they were just writing about terrible derogatory articles about our organisation.

Dr Moyes Now did that lead to any retaliation against you personally or the aid society?

Diana No it didnít and I really believe thatís because we prayed a lot.

Dr Moyes And you had the protection of God around you.

Diana Yes. But in 1990 our organisation was completely destroyed by fanatical Muslims. After they were incited at Friday prayers after Rami Siam.

Dr Moyes Well weíre into Rami Siam right now again and there have been great unrests in the country where you lived and worked. Tell me about what happened more recently with you in prison.

Diana Two of our girls or a few of our girls were invited by family to go and visit and it wasnít a particularly good time but the family kept insisting they come, we had visitors at that time from America and Germany and the girls eventually said okay well weíll come and visit you. They said when you come bring a film about Jesus. On that Friday only two went instead of three one girl left an hour before the other one as she walked down the alley way to her waiting taxi she thought it was strange that the family didnít accompany her. Then she got picked up as she got in the taxi an hour later the second girl left and she also thought it was strange that the family didnít walk down the alley way with her and then she spoke to her taxi driver and he didnít answer her and she thought somethingís happening and then the religious police picked her up with this CD Rom that had the Jesus Film and we realised then theyíd been set up to get caught. The rest of us were taken two days later just in the normal course of our work.

Dr Moyes Where were you taken too?

Diana We were taken to a prison which was not far from our office.

Dr Moyes What were the conditions like in that prison?

Diana There were thirty other inmates and there were scorpions there we had mice the girls used to have a game of killing two hundred flies a day our girls just for something to do.

Dr Moyes Were you physically assaulted in any way?

Diana No we were not they treated us well and we respected them and we covered up and we cooperated with them

Dr Moyes How long were you in that prison?

Diana We were probably six weeks in that prison. They moved us shortly after September 11.

Dr Moyes You were on the front page of almost every newspaper in Australia at this time.

Diana I didnít know that.

Dr Moyes A lot of people were praying for you.

Diana I know, itís amazing, I really believe millions of people were praying because everywhere Iíve been people have been in countries like Brazil or Jerusalem or somewhere and they said we were praying for you.

Dr Moyes Diana with this terrible imprisonment were you there by accident?
Diana No I donít believe we were and God really was preparing us for prison we didnít realise that.

Dr Moyes How does God prepare you for prison?

Diana In some very unusual ways just to give you some understanding of what happened a year before I was in Germany at a Bible School and while I was there the staff had prayed for me and then someone had a prophetic word and they said shelter now will be in the eye of a Tornado everything around you will be out of control.

Dr Moyes íShelterí now is the name of the Aid Christian organisation youíre working with. Your going to be in the eye of a Tornado?

Diana Yes and really thatís how it was you know.

Dr Moyes And you were going to be safe?

Diana Yes because after September 11 here were eight people quite oblivious too what was happening in the world just safe in that prison in Kabul

Dr Moyes Meanwhile there was fighting all around you and of course later on there would have been bombs and so on.

Diana Thatís right we were in the midst of that and then one of the American girls had gone to visit a family a year before they were living in Kabul. She fell asleep on the plane and she had a dream she saw herself running in a zigzag with bombs falling and narrowly missing her. The Lord reminded her of that dream when the bombing started and when she shared that with us we said well weíve got to stick close by you Now that dream actually came to pass the night they took us out of Kabul on that road they were just driving in a zigzag trying to avoid the bombs and then a month before we were imprisoned one of the German girls had a very strong impression while she was in Germany that there would be a dramatic change in the month of October in Afghanistan and as she was making her way back to Kabul she heard these words three times Ďyou're going to prisoní. Now this girl shared that with me in the beginning of August and I thought WOW! This is amazing we didnít know September 11 was coming up and then the night after the two American girls had been taken by the Taliban we had our team meeting and we had a time of worship and it was a very solemn time because we knew we could be next to be taken and the prophetic word that came out was Ďare you willing to go through whatever it takes to see this nation change?í And we said Ďyes Lordí. And the next morning we were taken and so when I look back on all that I saw God was really preparing us for prison and He just wanted eight people to be willing to be the catalysts for the prayer worldwide that changed Afghanistan because you know God is the defender of the orphans, widows, the poor and the needy and he heard their cries and they have suffered immensely under the Taliban regime and we actually saw many people in prison who were quite innocent there was a twelve year old girl in our prison who had run away from her husband another lady was beaten by her husband so she ran away and the religious police took her there was a lady who answered her front gate without wearing the berko you know absolutely nothing a lot of the men were political prisoners who would just disappear one guy had been in prison ten years the other prisoners told Gayog and Peter that when they released him he couldnít remember where his wife lived finally he found her and she died of a heart attack because all those years she thought he was dead and many have suffered so we really felt God was saying its time for this wicked regime to be kicked out.

Dr Moyes On my radio program 2GB we rang your pastor every Sunday night to ask how you were getting on or had they heard any news and we prayed on radio for you.

Diana Fantastic thank you so much.

Dr Moyes How were you released?

Diana Three weeks before we were released we all felt that our time was almost up because we felt God had put us there and He told us, He gave us two verses at the beginning to say were there to pray for that nation.

Dr Moyes So you were going to pray in prison? Sounds like Paul and Silas at Philippi

Diana Yes we had times of praise and worship and prayer. We were praying for the Government, for the nation, for the Taliban to be kicked out and so when we got taken out we all sensed that our time was almost completed there.

Dr Moyes You were expecting death.

Diana No we didnít because God reassured us through two verses that we would not die but live

Dr Moyes The newspapers didnít know of this reassurance from God they were concerned here that you would be killed.

Diana Well do you know we never once heard about the death penalty everyone else heard about it but we never heard about it and I really believe that was so people outside could pray.

Dr Moyes Now as I remember when eventually you were released people expected to find you dead.

Diana Well I think when they realised we were taken out of Kabul they thought well thatís it theyíre goners. But they took us out of Kabul one night and they wanted five million dollars as ransom and our executive director said look if you can get us a satellite phone and weíll try and get you the money. The rest of us thought what on earth is he talking about we didnít realise he wanted to make contact with the Americans because up until then the Americans knew where we were the whole time. Anyway they took us out and we ended up in a city called Ghazni and the guy who took us threw us into one cell while he went off we thought to get a satellite phone and no sooner had we arrived in the city at 9:30 in the morning America started bombing which was very unusual because usually they bombed at night so we thought what can we do now. The Americans donít know where we are the building is shaking so we did the only thing we knew how to do and that was to pray so we had a time of worship and intercession and we were there about two hours and in that time we could hear people yelling and running outside and then the last half hour it was very quiet.

Dr Moyes It was quiet I remember reading in the papers.

Diana Yes we were wondering what on earthís going on then all of a sudden someone was trying to break the door downstairs and I thought oh no are they going to come and kill us and then into our cell burst these wild looking guys actually.

Dr Moyes What did they say?

Diana They said Ďazard azard ataliban raftí which means Ďfreedom, freedom the Taliban has goneí. We just thought this is amazing after one hundred days in imprisonment hereís this guy telling us weíre free.

Dr Moyes And the Taliban had disappeared into the night.

Diana This is what they told us while we were in prison praying the Taliban realised because a lot of them had gone as far as Ghazni that the Americans were bearing down on them and had got to where they were and they all panicked and fled leaving us there.

Dr Moyes Up into the mountains?

Diana Well they were headed towards Kandahar

Dr Moyes So Guzni was taken over by the Americans you were released?

Diana No it wasnít taken over by the Americans. It was a local uprising malacia. Actually Ghazni was retaken over by the Taliban after we got out so it was quite dangerous for us to be there

Dr Moyes Where did you go upon release?

Diana We went through the streets. I didnít think I was going to make it because Iíd lost weight and I hadnít had any exercise for three and a half months, so we just went through the street and we could see people were celebrating everywhere women were coming to their gates without the Burqa. Waving to us and it seemed like they all knew that we were the only foreigners in the country and they were saying congratulations because we had gotten out of prison and we ended up at an office of a guy in charge of security and that night we stayed in his house while he while he had five men patrolling the compound with their guns while we slept but by morning he was quite anxious and he said you cant stay here because I could get killed so we went to an ex-Talibs house and stayed in his house you know many of the Taliban when they saw we were on the loosing side they just changed sides. And this guy also by the end of that day was quite worried that he would get killed so here we were in two different houses we couldnít go out we had to keep a low profile and we still didnít feel free although we were supposed to be free.
Dr Moyes There came a time when an Australian consultants and other officials would have contacted you?

Diana No. that second day Gayog went to our executive director went to the red cross office there was an Afghan guy there and while he was there a guy who was really an incredible guy he wasÖ I cant mention to much about him but he turned up with a satellite phone and we were able then to make contact with the Americans.

Dr Moyes And the message got back to your family in Perth.

Diana Well I donít know for sure if it did I rang them as soon as I got out that night we were rescued

Dr Moyes There must have been a great relief in Perth and in your home church which had prayed for you and of course were very, very committed in their prayers. The emails were running all over the world and I received emails from all sorts of sources saying would you join us in prayer for you and the other women

Diana You know it really was God who put it on peoples hearts throughout the world to pray and I really believe us eight were the catalysts for the prayer worldwide that changed Afghanistan because God wanted to do something in Afghanistan and the only way He could mobilise prayer was through eight people being willing to go in there.

Dr Moyes And to literally face death.

Diana Yes

Dr Moyes God is gracious and God is good that is the testimony of my ordinary person tonight Australian Christian Aid worker was held prisoner for those one hundred days by the Taliban in Afghanistan last year. Diana Thomas.

-- andreas
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