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FROM BULLY TO BROTHER IN CHRIST: JORDAN PASTOR SHARES STORY

November 2020

“If I had continued living the way I was, I would not be alive today.” Pastor Khalil Halaseh was a victim of bullying who went on to bully others – until he met Jesus. On the very first UN International Day against Violence and Bullying at School, SAT-7 ARABIC shares his story of transformation to help viewers find healing, and also offers parents support.

“Bullying was everywhere when I was growing up,” says Pastor Khalil Halaseh on the program You Are Not Alone. “I lived in a rough neighborhood and went to public school. I was bullied in class, and on the streets.” To protect himself and survive, he shares, he began to bully other children. “My teenage years were difficult, and I was violent to others.”

But when Pastor Khalil was 16 years old, his life and outlook were transformed. “I remember the day I met Jesus very vividly, because it was a decisive date in my life,” he says. “My life was totally changed. I learned to have faith in the Lord, and to ask others for help.”

Pastor Khalil shares that he found freedom when he was able to forgive those who had tormented him. This enabled him to break the cycle of violence that was destroying his life – and set him on the road to becoming a church leader who shows God’s love to others. He now leads the Church of the Nazarene in Al Ashrafia, Jordan.

The pastor explains that while forgiveness is easier to preach than to practice, in his view it is essential for healing. “In order to forgive others, we must first ask God for forgiveness,” he says. “Remember that Jesus Himself was bullied by the leaders of His community. Ask for healing from God.”

Looking back, Pastor Khalil says, he feels if he had not met Jesus, his suffering might have led him to despair. “If I had continued living the way I was, I would not be alive today.”

As Pastor Khalil’s moving testimony hit viewers’ screens, the parenting program The Coach worked to grow parents’ understanding and better enable them to support their children.

“Being bullied in school can have academic implications for students,” says presenter Dr Ihab Maged. “They may avoid school or be unable to concentrate in class.”

Studies show that one out of every five children is being bullied at school, and only one in three tell their parents. In the Middle East and North Africa, multiple economic and societal factors already threaten many children’s ability to attend school, particularly those impoverished or displaced – meaning it is vital that bullying is not added to the burden.

On a previous episode of You Are Not Alone, Nour Mouselle, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, explains the impact of bullying on her son and daughter. “At school, my children are getting verbally abused and attacked for being Syrian,” she says. “They are afraid to go. I made a complaint at the school, but nothing happened.”

Back on The Coach, Dr Maged explains that some bullies are themselves victims of bullying at home, from their parents or siblings – an element that makes it especially important to address the issue on a parenting program. “A bully doesn’t feel secure emotionally and psychologically, so they choose a weaker person to exercise power over,” he says.

Bullying, he adds, can leave lifelong emotional scars and can, in extreme cases, lead to suicide. He stresses the importance of parental involvement in children’s lives, to protect them from the worst outcomes of being bullied.

Pastor Khalil’s testimony echoes Dr Maged’s point. “A human being needs love,” he says. “To be loved, accepted, and respected without conditions. Respect can bring consolation and healing.”

UNESCO Member States have declared the first Thursday of November of every year the International Day against Violence and Bullying at School Including Cyberbullying, recognising that school-related violence in all its forms is an infringement of children and adolescents’ rights to education and to health and wellbeing.