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Confronting Lebanon’s violence through religious dialogue

Lebanon needs prophetic speech and a rhetoric of love which confront the acts of rejecting others

Nayla Tueni

Published: Updated:

Perhaps Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai’s statements on Sunday expressed the opinion of many Lebanese people who, despite their political affiliations, do not want their disagreements to reach the extent of eliminating and murdering others. Rai held “both rival political parties in Lebanon responsible for the recent explosions and attacks and [the resulting] victims and damage.”

The mad surge of terrorism and murder, in addition to what may follow as a result of the speeches which become more tense by the day and which further link our situation to what is happening in Syria, Iraq and other countries, leaves no chance to ponder on who is responsible, why this is happening and whether it is possible to come up with solutions. The sound of explosions drowns all other voices thus silencing the voice of reason. Perhaps the biggest responsibility falls on those who call for openness and love of life as they have to pave way for means to protect the country - which they paid high prices for - from those tampering with its future and its people’s lives.

A ray of light

Amidst this evil, the rejection of listening to others, speeches accusing others of infidelity and threats represented by explosions and assassinations, we heard a prophetic voice speaking from the Vatican. Pope Francis said: “All religions are true because they are true in the hearts of those who believe in them.” This is a deep intellectual and theistic development which is important for our world because it confirms that truth derives its strength from people’s faith and acknowledgment of it and that religions are followed for the good of people and not as a pretext for torturing them and murdering them.

Lebanon needs prophetic speech and a rhetoric of love which confront the acts of rejecting others

Nayla Tueni

In Lebanon, we heard a similar statement from Father Ibrahim Sarouj, whose library was burnt down in Tripoli. Responding to the assaulters and to this shameful act, he said: “I thank God who turned this bitter [event] into a sweet one. I was elated when I saw [how many people stood] in solidarity with me. [The assaulters] wanted me to feel afraid and to [isolate myself] but they can see how the entire world is in solidarity with me. What comforted me the most is these young men who willingly came to fix whatever is left of the library. They wanted to incite strife between Muslims and Christians, but everyone knows that ever since I was a child, I have carried the [banner] of Islam and served [it] from the [bottom] of my heart. Today, I say: 'I believe in Jesus Christ [so,] it’s not [one of my] characteristics to harm any small creature, so how can I [possibly insult] the prophet of a nation? I love those who burnt my library and I thank them [because] they let the young man who works there live and because they also let me live. I forgive them just like Pope John Paul II forgave the Turkish man who opened fire on him.”

This is what Lebanon needs - a prophetic speech and a rhetoric of love which confront the acts of rejecting others, accusing them of infidelity and allowing the shedding of their blood. By not following this path, all Lebanese political parties will be responsible for destroying the country and its sons’ future - that is if these sons get the chance to live, to build some sort of future.

This article was first published in al-Nahar on Jan. 6, 2014.

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Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni

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