Uniting Sunnis, Christians and Alawis
On Monday, 29 July 2013 (20 Ramadan 1434), an unlikely group of fellow diners gathered in front of a beautiful mountain top restaurant in the village of Miniara, in the Akkar district of North Lebanon, less than 15 minutes by car from the Syrian border. R&R Syria united representatives from all religious communities and groups present in Akkar for a Peace Iftar in favour of Syrian refugees from Qusayr, Homs and other parts of the country. Amongst those attending were representatives of Sunni and Alawi groups who are fighting each other a few kilometers further South (in Tripoli) and a few kilometers further North (in Syria). A potentially explosive mixture, and yet – if managed well – a mixture with huge potential.
And then the refugees, more than 100 of them, both sexes, all ages, all backgrounds: Moqtada, the math teacher who had his left leg shot to pieces three months ago; Hisam, the electrician with the sparkling eyes and firm handshake; Walid, 26 years old and dream of every girl and every basketball team - if only he were not walking on crutches; Abdul-Karim, whose wife died on the 8-day march into Lebanon and who is now a single dad with 5 toddlers; Sana, the mother of the adorable 4-year old pig-tailed Sheher; Hiba, a bubbly 10-year old schoolgirl, and so on and so forth.
And, given the audience, the dignitaries (and the Mufti was the first to speak and set the tone) were compelled to squarely address the ‘’elephant in the room’’, and acknowledged what is happening in Syria, and what has happened to the Syrian refugees present in the room, expressed his solidarity with them, and all other dignitaries followed course, including the Alawi Sheikh.
In Lebanon, religious dignitaries are used to giving speeches on the inter-relatedness of the three Abrahamic religions, interfaith cooperation, solidarity and peace and love for everyone. But this was different. This was not just about theory and ideals; this was about putting all this into practise in the face of a horrendous war raging just a few kilometres away. The refugees seemed thirsty for the truth to be spoken, for the wider public and the dignitaries of the region to acknowledge their situation, and to take them seriously.
R&R’s next peacebuilding interfaith events will take place for the Eid al-Fitr next week, bringing together refugees and local host communities for a big childrens’ festival, and on the occasion of the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15 August with a joint march to a local feast, this time in a Christian village of the Akkar district, close to the first Peace Centre.
Please find more photos and individual descriptions on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/relief4syria