What was your experience during the civil war in Lebanon?
Rosette: I grew up during the civil war. I don’t remember much of my life before that. The war lasted for 15 years, and I remember many times trying to imagine or dream of how life would be without the daily fear of being killed or kidnapped. We were constantly on the move, searching for a safer place; we moved from many houses, many schools, looking for “safer areas.”
What memories just won’t fade?
R: There are so many painful memories that I wanted to obliterate, but I couldn’t. I first witnessed people killing each other at the age of 9, and after that time, the sights of death and destruction were my daily bread. I still remember my 13-year-old friend who was kidnapped while riding his bicycle and was never found.
Where do you see God’s intervention in your life?
R: On October 13, 1990, we awoke to the sound of planes bombing. I grabbed my 10-month-old son. I couldn’t see or breathe because of the smoke. In a split second we decided to flee home and seek shelter in a hotel. We had driven a few miles when we
saw soldiers. A little light of hope shone in our eyes, but it didn’t last long, because after we cried, “We are Lebanese, we are with you,” we realized that they were the Syrian army who were on a doomed mission, coming to kill everybody in their way. They stood us against the wall with our hands up, ready to shoot us. Then I heard a large explosion.
I opened my eyes thinking I was in heaven, but to my astonishment, I was still alive and untouched. At that moment, a Lebanese tank pulled up behind us and saw the Syrians ready to shoot us, so they fired a rocket at them, killing them instantly. We were less than 10 metres away, but we were unharmed.
What has been the journey of forgiveness like for you?
R: Being pregnant, I was traumatized by the incident, and began having nightmares, dreaming that they were coming to slaughter us and kill my children. I knew that salvation from this extreme fear could only be found in the God of life, the one who saved me and granted me extra years. I prayed, fasted, cried out to Him: “God, I can’t take it anymore. I’m scared, bitter, and hateful. I don’t want to hate those who tried to kill me.” The answer to that prayer was a lengthy journey through which God taught me to forgive. It took me almost six years of fasting and praying, during which I saw God’s hand on my life.
As followers of Jesus we are asked to love our enemies – an extremely difficult thing to truly put into practice.
R: When the Syrian war started, I said, “God, my ministry is to pray for them, but keep me away from personal interactions.” However, my son and daughter-in-law are very much involved in the Syrian ministry. Every time they visited or we gathered for a meal they would share stories about what God is doing: healing miraculously, appearing in dreams, answering prayers, revealing His glory. I thought, “If God is at work, I want to be involved.” This is when the challenge of “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” appeared. I forced myself to pray for them (my enemies), to visit them, to hear their pain. This is when I realized that I don’t have enemies anymore.
Rosette Mansour serves as the Partner Relations Officer for CBM’s partner, the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development. In her role she helps coordinate important ministries such as church-based outreach programs for Syrian refugees.