I know our great God wants me here for a purpose: Syrian war survivor
Hanna, a trained psychological counsellor from a village near Damascus, in Syria, recently joined the Syrian Bible Society’s Trauma Healing Program. This program aims to help people like herself – who have suffered from the long Syrian war. Here is her story:
In December 2014 on a rainy day, we heard people screaming and there was war outside our building. We got real frightened. After a while, we found out that a military group had occupied our village. They forced the families to stay down in their basements. At first they told us that we would be okay – no one will be hurt.
There was a voice inside me that I heard telling me: “It is not the end. I am with you. Don’t be afraid!”
Two weeks later, 240 of us were sold to another armed group and taken to another place, where the women and children were separated from the men. We stayed there for more than six months – under the ground! We couldn’t tell day from night.
My mum and I were the only Christians among 120 women and children. I didn’t know what had happened to my father and my brothers. No food, no medicines. We were beaten many times; in our room, a woman died for lack of medicine. We could hear suffering voices all around. I was losing hope …
I was hiding a small Bible and trying to read daily. I had to be strong to stand by my mother. There was a voice inside me that I heard telling me: “It is not the end. I am with you. Don’t be afraid!”
After that, they took us to another village as prisoners. We, women and children, were put together on small farms. We also found out that our men were alive and that they were about 20 kilometres from where we were.
This was the first time I could see the daylight in six months, and I knew that God was my protector. We then spent about ten months on these small farms and, out of all the women, I was the only one with an education. When the guard knew this, he gave me the permission to teach the others as well as the children. They brought me some books. After three months, I prepared a test for them to pass to move into the next grade. I also gave them small presents and the Sheikh agreed to let the children see their parents.
This was the first time for me as well to see my father and brothers, after more than one year in captivity. I was proud of what I had done by teaching people and making children happy.
At this time, a woman gave birth to a child and I was able to help her. What a beautiful feeling when I took the child in my arms. I will never forget this, as at that precious moment I saw the light of God in the darkness.
I had kept many of the Bible verses in my mind and used to pray them daily.
At about this time, the guards found the Bible and took it away. I was so upset. I tried everything with them to give it back to me, but they refused and then the Sheikh tried to persuade me to leave Jesus so that they would release me and my parents. But I refused. I had kept many of the Bible verses in my mind and used to pray them daily.
I was obliged to fast Ramadan and wear their clothes and put on a headscarf to cover my hair … During those long months, they would cut our hair many times and there were no mirrors, so all that time I never saw my face.
After a year and 10 months, this time a real war broke out in our neighbourhood. Planes were flying in the sky; rockets falling everywhere. The armed group had to flee and they left us behind. We stayed where we were for a couple of nights without knowing what to do. Then our men came and helped us to leave this area.
It became so clear to me that I wanted to help people receive healing from their traumas.
After that, I was convinced that I couldn’t stay in Syria anymore. I couldn’t sleep for many nights but I kept on hearing the still voice saying: “God is with me.” In fact, I couldn’t leave Syria. I felt responsible for my community because of what I had gone through and how God had helped me.
It became so clear to me that I wanted to help people receive healing from their traumas. Due to my own experience, I started believing so strongly that God will not leave them alone. Yes, deep in my heart I could feel that God had been and continued being with me all the time.
Now I am working with children in Damascus. To me it has been a great opportunity to attend the initial Trauma Healing Training for us from Syria. A great opportunity to understand what had happened to me even though I could feel God with me all the time, but I couldn’t understand why it had happened.
The trauma healing program helped me to understand how God introduced himself to me.