Growing up, Hanine lived in fear of punishment from God and was skeptical of Christians. Her life was powerfully changed after she encountered believers who prayed for her, leading to a new understanding of who God is, and a life transformed by the love of Jesus.
Hanine’s story is featured on Women Of God, a TV program produced and funded by Horizons International. Women of God features interviews with Muslim women who share their experiences of persecution and suffering under Islam, and their stories and testimonies of how they have found freedom in Christ. This 13-episode show is aired in Muslim-majority countries through satellite TV, so that these women can share their stories with millions of people who also need Jesus.
Host: Why were you afraid of God, though you were living an open life, religiously and socially?
Hanine: I was afraid of God, because my parents taught me that God is something scary. That if I broke one of His commandments, I’d definitely go to Hell. I wouldn’t go to Heaven.
My parents, despite being very conservative, my father wanted me to get an education, as well as a job and responsibilities, as long as he was in control of everything.
He wanted us to be conservative and I obeyed him. I wouldn’t defy his will. I was conservative.
A man proposed to me and we got engaged. Shortly after that we had our wedding and got married.
Host: Okay. What changed in your life after marriage? What happened to you?
Hanine: Of course, new responsibilities were adding up; a husband, in-laws, many new things… a lot was happening in my life. But I always felt a certain emptiness in my life.
I’d go to work, come back from work. That was the routine. Work, home, my husband would come from Lebanon for a break, and that was it.
Plus, I had a daughter… I only had her back then. Those were my responsibilities.
Host: Until you decided that you didn’t want to live like this anymore.
Hanine: Yes. I decided that either he’d come and live permanently in Syria, or I’d go live with him. So he told me, “I can’t come to Syria. I can’t work in Syria. So, you have to come.”
So I left everything, although I had been working in Syria for 8 years. I left my job and life… I followed my husband to Lebanon. I came to live in Lebanon at the beginning of the war.
Things were still okay. But then the situation changed. The war in Aleppo was on. More attacks and fights were taking place. I couldn’t come back.
My parents told me: “Don’t come here. Stay where you are.” So, I made a life there. I settled in. Then one day, one of the sisters (in Christ) said, “Come to church with me to meet the sisters.”
I said, “You’re kidding! You want me to go to church? My life’s already complicated enough, and you want to take me to church?” That’s what I told her. She said, “Really, let’s go. It’s nothing big. Why are you taking it so seriously?”
Eventually, she took me to church. I went to church. I sat there… I was sitting in the church’s courtyard. I saw brother Charbel walking towards me. It was obvious on my face. Whoever looked at me saw how tired I was.
He came close and asked, “Sister, do you want us to pray for you?” That’s what he asked. I replied, “Yes, why not.” And they started praying for me, (Charbel) and the few sisters who were at the Center.
I started crying a lot. I cried. And felt… I don’t know… As if something was lifted off my chest. I started getting closer… I got a Bible. I read it. I started listening to channels, but only when my father wasn’t at home. Even today.
Host: He opposes this.
Hanine: Yes! The idea that we are Muslims and Christians. He’d say, “My daughter, what are you watching?” Things like that.
I’d go to church and he’d ask, “Why are you going to church?” I’d reply, “Because I want to help you.” Something like that.
He’d say: “No. I don’t want any help. Just stay at home.” But I wanted to go. Not for any gain, but I felt comfortable there.
Host: I’d like us to proceed. You were telling me that when you got invited to church, you did not welcome the idea right away. What preconceived ideas did you have about church? Why did you decline at first?
Hanine: In Syria, I was told that Christians are Jews, and thus infidels who do not know God.
I mean, their lives, their fun, their desires. This is the image they drew for us. That their lives are carnal. That they live the worldly life, but the eternal is ours. Ours is the eternal life, while theirs is the carnal life.
Host: And after attending church regularly, what did you see?
Hanine: I saw the total opposite of that. I saw brothers and sisters all standing by each other, who know the word of God and know God, and know that there’s an eternal life, a second life with Jesus Christ and God.
Host: And, in your opinion, what changed most in you after knowing the Lord?
Hanine: I felt I became very calm and at peace…
I used to get very angry with my kids. I’d take out my frustrations on them. Sometimes I’d even hit them. I’d hit them hard.
But when I got to know the Lord, I started knowing more. I said, “No. These are my kids! They are God’s children. He entrusted them to me. I must protect them, love them more, teach them the word of God.”
Host: I’d like to ask you, if you could go back in time—what would you change about your life?
Hanine: Uh… I guess… When I came to Lebanon, God had prepared a path for me to encounter Him. I wish I got to know Him earlier. Way earlier, long before I went through the hardships.
I wish I knew Him when the circumstances were still fine. I should’ve met Him then.