Testimony

Confessing joy: A Sunni Lebanese woman on becoming Christian

My father said: “Do whatever you want, but don’t change your religious status on official documents…"

A Lebanese Christian woman stands in front of her shop, her forehead marked with an ash cross, as she marks Ash Monday in Beirut on February 08, 2016. 
Middle Eastern Catholic churches mark the first day of lent in which priests make the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of their parishioners.  / AFP / PATRICK BAZ

AFP / PATRICK BAZ

She was a 7-year-old kid while he was there even before history.

She loved him since she woke up to life, watching stories of him on TV, mainly on special occasions, but didn’t know him, as no one around her knew him. Those around her refused to get to know him or recognize him.

She grew up and he entered her life again, without permission. She betrayed him a lot but he forgave her each and every time and she adored him even more. When her family members knew about her love story, they refused and condemned it. But she insisted on wearing white for him to be his bride and became the daughter of God and temple of the Holy Spirit.

This is my story. I am Yasmin Amin Baydawi, a Sunni Lebanese woman, and he is my love, my friend, my lord, my savior, my Jesus. How did my story begin, who are the heroes and what has changed deep down in me?

My story began when my convictions forced me to refuse the doctrine of my parents and the environment I belonged to. I started asking my mum and dad questions about their religion but their answers weren’t enough. I asked them to be enrolled in religious classes as it was strictly forbidden in my school to talk about religion.

I went twice to those classes but the Sheikh was annoyed by questions asked by a 14-year-old girl concerning polygamy, divorce, the status of women in Islam, etc. I prefer not to tell about his answers, which made me realize that I didn’t belong there. My journey then began. I believed in the presence of God but I was searching for God without finding him. My God is different from theirs and I lived an inner conflict for years!

I met, at the age of 23, a Christian, for the first time in my life. He offered me a Bible and a CD about the Trinity, allowing me to understand that concept that was so vague for me. I then opened the Bible randomly  and I read the following verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1,1) I didn’t understand what I read but I shivered and I realized that I had found God in that verse, the God that I was always looking for.

I decided to commit myself to a Christian political party. I told them my story and asked them to help me so I could be baptized. That was exactly what happened. I started to study with Father Georges Kamel and then with Father Jean Jermani and the Sisters of Charity. When the date of my baptism drew near and the bishop gave his approval, I confessed to my parents what they were probably expecting. My mother went crazy and told me “You will only be baptized after my death!”

My father said: “Do whatever you want, but don’t change your religious status on official documents… Don’t bring dishonor to our family.”

None of this stopped me. My mother begged me, the day of my baptism, not to go, but I went to receive this great sacrament.

My friends are no longer my friends; they decided to keep their distance. At the beginning, my mother would call me an infidel when she saw me praying or practicing my faith, but through the grace of God, we have overcome this. I am committed to a prayer group called “the Message of Love” founded by Father Jermani, who helped me a lot. The Lord has sent him to me as a saint on earth. Saints are not just in heaven — our sainthood starts from here. I take this opportunity to thank him, and to thank all the priests and sisters, my friends, my godfather, my godmother and the prayer group that has become my second family.

Many things changed deep down for me. I have learned how to forgive as Jesus did when He was crucified. I learned to see through the faces of my brothers and sisters the face of Jesus, and not to be afraid to love because I am in the image of God, and God is absolute and free Love.

I have learned how to be one with Jesus. I am moving on with my life among my parents, relatives, friends, and parish, in a journey that will take me to Jesus. Pray for me.