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Liberty professor from Syria influences students to become culturally aware, globally minded

Liberty University Professor Dr. Sherene Khouri draws from her personal experience growing up in Syria and fleeing persecution as a global worker in the Middle East 10/40 window country to encourage her students to become globally minded.

Khouri teaches Arabic language courses, Methods and Issues in Theology, Introduction to Apologetics, Introduction to Islam, Global Studies, and she has been instrumental in creating Arabic course offerings, helping to launch a minor in Arabic in Fall 2023.

Originally from Damascus, Syria, Khouri grew up in a religiously mixed family where her mother became a believer when Khouri was eight, but many of her relatives are Muslims. Khouri said she grappled with whether Islam or Christianity was the truth and questioned core beliefs, like the Trinity. Nevertheless, she pursued Christ and surrendered her life to Jesus at 11 years old under the supervision of her children’s ministry teacher at her local church in Damascus.

When she became an adult, Khouri knew she wanted to pursue ministry and lead others to Christ. She and her husband, Daniel, an assistant director of Academic Advising at Liberty, served as global workers in another Islamic country for seven years by working and doing ministry at the same time. They abandoned their fears and held weekly worship gatherings in secret in their home.

“I opened my house as a church so people would come and worship with us,” Sherene said. “We sang Christian songs, but in a very low volume. No music, no instruments. We were basically breaking the law every time we met.”

But the government eventually discovered what they were doing.

“We started evangelizing to the locals, and this is when the government found out about our ministries and gave us notice to leave the country in three days. It was very challenging. We lost everything.”

After receiving the notice, the Khouris went back to Syria and became involved in an apologetics ministry.

“It created a spark in my heart to find answers to defend Christianity against other religions,” she said.

Dr. Sherene Khouri and her husband, Daniel

Not long after, civil war broke out in her homeland, and the couple faced immense persecution for their faith. They lost their jobs, their car was vandalized four times, and their lives were at risk. Fearing for their safety from Islamic radical groups, they moved to the United States, where they found Liberty University through several friends who recommended the apologetics program.

It was at Liberty University where Khouri saw an opportunity to explore some of the questions she had during her youth. Her quest to better defend Christianity as truth led her to pursue an M.A. in Christian Apologetics, completed in 2017, and a Ph.D. in Theology and Apologetics, which she completed in 2022. Her dissertation, “Triune Relationality: A Trinitarian Response to Islamic Monotheism,” will be published in November of 2024.

Khouri said she was heavily influenced by her professors when she was a student, and she credits them with much of her growth as a person and a professor.

“Here in the United States at Liberty, you can say your opinion very freely,” she said. “It’s not just a professor’s job to correct you, but also to encourage you to be who you want to be. That encouraged me to express my ideas and feel safe in the class. I revised so many views that I had learned earlier in my life because of my professors and their experience. There was no discrimination against someone coming from a different background or having different views.”

Now, as a professor herself, Khouri said one of her favorite parts of her job is the opportunity to influence her students by sharing her experiences. Even when she was a teaching assistant during her studies, the professors gave her opportunities to tell her story, which helps students relate to others from differing backgrounds.

Khouri took a group of students to Jordan for Spring Break 2023.

“They saw the influence I could have on students. Students come to me and ask me questions all the time, especially global studies students, because they are globally minded and want to go overseas and make an impact on people by influencing others and sharing the gospel.”

Khouri said she also emphasizes to her students that they don’t need to be afraid of persecution.

“You don’t have to be scared,” she said. “When we lived in Syria and Saudi Arabia, we were persecuted there, even lost our jobs and forced to leave the country. We lost everything. But God was very faithful to us; He did not leave us alone. We felt the closest to God during persecution and during hardship.”

Khouri is involved with Liberty students who are helping Syrian refugees locally through their churches, and she supports their efforts by answering questions about Syrian and Arabic culture and advising them on how to work with refugees.

In 2023, Khouri took a group of students to Jordan during Spring Break, where they partnered with a local church and gained more practical knowledge about the Arabic culture. Many of her students are now serving or interning in the Middle East.

“It’s been a dream for me to influence and help my students become culturally aware, appropriate, and loving,” Khouri said. “When you understand someone’s culture and background and all the difficulties that they came through, you will love them. You will build compassion toward them, so you can share the Gospel and care about their destiny. That’s what I’m trying to do right now, just influence and teach Champions for Christ. Training Champions is the goal of my life.



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