Athanasius of Thessalonica
New Martyr Athanasius of Thessalonica was an Orthodox Christian of Thessalonica who while conversing with a Muslim emir was entrapped by him as having converted to Islam and, thus, became subject to execution for maintaining his Christian faith. Athanasius is commemorated on September 8.
Athanasius was born to a distinguished and pious Christian family in Thessalonica during the eighteenth century. He acquired an very good education including study for a few years in Constantinople. He returned to Thessalonica able to speak, in addition to his native Greek, both Turkish and Arabic very well.
In 1774, during conversation with an emir, Athanasius illustrated a point during the conversation with a quote that pronounced the Muslim confession of faith. The emir immediately took this as an opportunity and immediately reported Athanasius to an Islamic judge, claiming that he had converted to Islam. After examining the claim the judge found no merit in the case and was ready to dismiss Athanasius, when the emir and other officials became very insistent about his alleged conversion. The judge then pressured Athanasius to convert. Defending himself, Athanasius maintained that he knew no truth but that of Christ. Dissatisfied with his response, the judge then had Athanasius thrown into prison.
Several days later, Athanasius was again brought before the judge. Under questioning, he continued to hold firmly to his confession of Christ, and was therefore sentenced to death as an apostate to Islam. At the age of twenty-five, Athanasius was hanged outside the city, a martyr for his faith in Christ.