and some Muslims, dismiss theBarnabas gospel as a pious fraud,but some Muslim scholars believe itto be genuine.
Doubts about Trinity
Soria said he had doubts about hisfaith as early as the time he wastraining to become a priest. Hequestioned the Christian conceptof the Trinity and, when he was 21,even had an argument about itwith his late father.When a seminarian has doubtsabout his faith, he leaves, saidSoria. But he did not want to dothat, so he continued his vocationand became a priest in 1988. Hisdeeply Catholic upbringing hadsomehow influenced him into thereligious life, he said. But that didnot stop him from raising questionsabout his religion.He worked withtwo parishes in Taguig and another in Caloocan City. During this time,he became more and moreoutspoken about his doubts aboutthe Catholic faith. Soon, he wastransferred to the University of thePhilippines-Diliman parish asassistant to "running priest" Fr.Robert Reyes, a longtime friend.
Soria said his transfer to UP wasmeant to give a safe sanctuary for his views. But the liberal atmosphereat the university actuallystrengthened his resolve to make amomentous
decision: To convert toIslam.
He argued that many groups other than Muslims also lived inMindanao, among them theManobo and Sama tribes. At thattime, he was teaching theology atthe Ateneo de Manila University.Soria, a native of Dipolog City, thenstudied the history of Mindanao inorder to back his argument withhistorical and sociological proofs.While he did find evidence that notall who lived in Mindanao wereMoros, he also discoveredsomething else. "I saw that thenegative things associated withMuslims were not true, that theywere actually being oppressed bythe colonialists," he said."I thoughtMuslims were stupid and not well-informed, and I wanted to convertthem to Christianity," Soria said. Butthe opposite happened, he said.
A different gospel
He came across the Gospel ofBarnabas, a work purporting to bea depiction of the life of Jesus by hisdisciple Barnabas, and was"convinced" it held the truth.The Gospel of Barnabas says Jesusdid not die from crucifixion butactually ascended to heaven alive.The man who was crucified wasactually Judas Iscariot, the traitor.The gospel also foretells the comingof Muhammad. Majority ofacademics, including Christians
he goes by the name Muhammad,after the great prophet of the faithhe now calls his own.Three years ago, Estanislao Soria, apriest in the Archdiocese of Manila,made that great leap of faith fromChristianity to Islam. He becameMuhammad Soria, much to theconsternation of his devoutCatholic family."My family was so hurt they wouldn'ttalk to me. Only the wife of mycousin understands. My elder brother respects me in theory, buthe just tolerates me," said the 64-year-old academic and former theologian.Anger was also the reaction ofsome of his former parishioners andfriends, he said.
It started with a challenge
But Soria said he never backeddown from his decision, knowingthat even the Devil could not stophim from removing his priestly robesand embracing Islam. It was adecision that was political andeven intellectual,he said, but it was also a matter of faith. His change of faith beganwhen he challenged former Autonomous Region in MuslimMindanao Gov. Nur Misuari'sstatement that everyone inMindanao was a Moro.e used to be known asFather Stan among hisflock in parishes around