This piece is the second installment of a monthly series on legal immigrants for TheBlaze and The Chris Salcedo Show.
The war had stolen young Brigitte Gabriel’s childhood in Marjayoun, Lebanon.
“Will I live to see another birthday?” she thought, surrounded by the rubble that used to be her happy home.
Thirty years earlier, when modern-day Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943, they created the “National Pact,” which divided the government’s power by religious factors based on population.
Basically, the president had to be a Maronite Christian, with other positions of power given to a Sunni and a Shiite Muslim.
"My mother grabbed me and shook me. "You aren't going to die Brigitte. I swear to you that I will do anything to keep you alive. Someone is going to find us and get us out of here." - An excerpt from Brigitte Gabriel's best-selling book Because They Hate #brigittegabriel #amotherslove #lebanon #israel #becausetheyhate #tbt
A photo posted by Brigitte Gabriel (@actforamerica) on
It’s when that demographic shifted that things started to get tense.
The Lebanese Civil War in the 1970's was fought primarily between the Muslim faction (the Lebanese National Movement) who wanted to change the government’s structure, and the Maronite Christians (The Lebanese Forces) who wanted to maintain it.
The “civil war” became a cacophony of other players — and funding from other Islamic nations like Iran. It quickly became about Islam taking over.
Indeed, the Lebanese National Movement (made up of forces from various parts of the Muslim world) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization all came together to quash the Lebanese (Christian) Forces.
Israel came onto the scene with its invasion of Lebanon to deal with the PLO, which was using Lebanon as a launching pad in an auxiliary military offensive against Israel.
That geopolitical move would forever alter Brigitte’s life.
A Happy Life
She remembers her last real birthday party as a child like it was yesterday—the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful room and her mother’s tabouli, kebabs and baklava come back as quickly as they were taken away by the civil war that started just a month later.
At just ten years old, Brigitte had to grow up. Fast.
Life became a cacophony of death, and the only “normalcy” came from the monotonous tasks just to stay alive. Not unlike Islamic State’s persecution of Christians today, the Christians in Marjayoun went from free citizens to direct targets of the Islamic factions.
Brigitte became one of the war’s first victims as a rocket slammed their home. She found herself pinned under debris from the house, bleeding and screaming - blood gushing inches into the air from her arm. The pain and the terror was seared into her memory.
Life became very, very different for Brigitte and her family. Their home destroyed, their freedom curtailed - and their savings to escape to the United States burned in the bombings. With no money, and because their IDs showed their Christian faith, they were stuck.
They watched their country fall into pure evil.
Parents were to watch as their children were abused and killed. Tiny babies were put to death. Daughters were raped. A friend of Brigitte’s family was made to kill her own son, as they tied a knife to her hand and manipulated her arms. Christian churches were used as outhouses; the Bible as toilet paper.
The bombing became so relentless that finally the family had to live in a small bomb shelter. After an explosion blocked the exit with a large piece of cement, Brigitte, now 13, watched their food and water run out until when it was finally gone on the third day.
God had other plans - and they were saved from their fate by three Christian militia fighters who heard their cries for help.
While the war “technically” ended in 1976 with the Six Parties Summit - the violence continued and normalcy was relative. “As young people we talked about our futures in such different ways," Brigitte recalls, “We didn’t say ‘when I grow up.’ We said, ‘if I live.’”
A Lifeline from Israel
The propaganda was incredibly effective.
The PLO would launch rockets towards Israel from civilian zones with the express purpose of prompting retaliation. And - you guessed it - Israel would get the blame. Brigitte and her family were used as human shield.
Once again, God had other plans.
Whether it was the time Israel saved Marjayoun from a planned massacre, or the time Brigitte watched Israeli doctors and nurses care for her injured mother without care about her nationality, race, or religion - it was beginning to dawn on Brigitte just how different things really were.
It got her thinking.
It got her thinking about her culture operated; about the prejudices Arab media ingrains into Arab population all over the Middle East against Israel; about the prejudices ingrained in so many about the role of women in society (even within the Christian population).
It got her thinking about her future on a whole new level - and this time, it meant thinking about a new way of life outside of Lebanon.
As the war petered out, Brigitte ramped up - learning as much English as she could and completing a course in business administration. She worked her way through a job as a secretary on an Israeli military base in Lebanon, and later in a hospital, where she made a connection that led to a job at a television station in Jerusalem that Brigitte had often watched.
She had her ticket out.
Inside Jerusalem’s Walls
The determined Brigitte eventually made anchor at the station, and became the face of the channel’s “World News.” Life in Jerusalem thrilled her - particularly the fact that she could speak so freely, both as a private citizen and from the desk of the TV station.
Her time in Israel also meant she had access to a type of travel voucher that allowed her to travel inexpensively within the United States - giving her a glimpse of where her father had wanted to take her.
She was determined to come back someday - for good.
Back in Jerusalem, she was safe. But with each visit back to Lebanon to care for her parents, she escaped attempted murder more than once. She was not only a Christian - which marked her in and of itself - but she was Christian working for the Jews.
Imagine planning your wedding based on warnings from an Israeli commander of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) who worried that the wedding of a Lebanese Christian working for a Jerusalem-based, U.S.-owned TV station and an American journalist would be asking for trouble if it were held in your homeland.
That was Brigitte’s reality, as she and her fiancé tried to find a way to get married by her parents’ side in Lebanon.
Ultimately, terrorists kept them from going there; failing health kept her parents from traveling to Jerusalem. And soon - too soon - they passed away, one right after the other. As she looked at the resting places she chose for them in Israel, Brigitte was reminded of all those years of hardship, and the unfailing love and encouragement they constantly showered on her despite it all.
To America’s Shores
Brigitte’s happy memories of summer trips to the United States where her father had wanted to take the family hadn’t faded. And, when she and her husband decided to go back permanently, she was elated.
Plans were made, papers were processed, and soon the young couple and their new baby flew off into a new life.
Throwback to #cpac where we met so many amazing patriotic students who were so ready to preserve National Security & defeat terrorism! We hope to see all of these same students and more at our National Conference & Legislative Briefing in DC, September 6th & 7th. We are offering student scholarships! Apply today! Details are on our website, actforamerica.org/scholarship We can't wait to see you! #actforamerica #actcon2016 #nationalsecurity #activism #grassroots #studentswhoACT #ffl #futurefemaleleaders
A photo posted by Brigitte Gabriel (@actforamerica) on
As she settled in, Brigitte began to notice a common thread woven throughout her new culture: Judeo-Christian principles that protect and value life - a far cry from the Islamic hatred for the kafir (or “infidel") that robbed her of her childhood.
At the same time, she began observing an increasingly politically correct society that had never really experienced persecution; a society whose schools increasingly feature sanitized versions of Islam’s exploits; a society that is increasingly unwilling to identify terrorism for what is.
She saw what was happening, she wasn’t going to stand by and let it happen.
Today, this immigrant is the founder, president and CEO of the globally recognized ACT! for America, the largest national security grassroots organization in America with 300,000 and over 1,000 chapters nationwide. It gives “a powerful, organized, informed and mobilized voice” to those concerned about the rise of radical Islam. She is also the author of “Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America.”
In a world rife with political correctness, ACT! for America has changed the conversation. From school board meetings about high school curriculums to the halls of Congress, Brigitte’s organization has opened eyes - and her expertise has made her an internationally-trusted resource to governments around the world. Incredibly, ACT! for America has helped pass 42 bills in 22 states relating to national security. For more information go to www.actforamerica.org.
Brigitte has made it her life’s mission to ensure that America faces its enemies head on. She’s literally been to hell and back, but remains resolute: “I lost my country of birth to Islamic fundamentalism,” she writes, “and I don’t want to lose my country of adoption to the same fate.”
Behind the Series:
Let’s give relevance to the stories people who waiting for their dream; people who came the right way; the people who have gone above and beyond for their adopted country.
Because, as I’ve said in the past, doing the right thing takes courage, especially when so much of the world pushes you to take the easy route.
It takes real guts.
Let’s tell their stories.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: email@example.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree
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