Christmas in Lebanon

We write today to explain how these last days have been for us. Christmas started on the afternoon of the 24th, when we were invited to attend a “carnival” in Bqerzala. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned to be a carol parade on the streets of the village, at the joyful sound of an “arabic-fanfarre” band, and coloured by the balloons and Santa Claus suits that all children and young people dressed up. We could feel the joy of Christmas and the emotion of the kids for the presents they would receive later that night. The mass was at 23:30h. Although we didn’t understand much, it was nice to see that the people there were happy, and we were touched by the beautiful singing all the time. In the end we offered to everybody a cup of hot wine that we had prepared, while we wished them a merry Christmas. Back at home, we spent the night with the other volunteers living in the Peace Center and two Italian journalists who visited us.

On Sunday, Christmas day, two of us went to the mass in Bqerzala, while the other two helped to prepare the lunch and the presents we would give to the children of Tal-Aabbas, a refugees camp. Four more Italians came to the Peace Center, volunteers and a student. We spent the day with them, cooking, having lunch (at 18h!), talking and playing games. We enjoyed it, even if we were expecting something more especial. We experienced contradictions among what we would have liked to live, what was expected from us, what was morally correct and what happened in reality. We finally accepted that we are in a reality that we don’t understand much, that it is not easy for us to take initiatives (because of the language, knowledge of the society, etc.) and that we may not have been completely aware in that occasion.

 On Saint Steven day Raquel became again Papa Noël, in that occasion for the children of the refugee camp of Tal-Aabbas, half an hour by car from Bqerzala. As it happened the first time in the Peace Center, they were happy and it was a nice moment. It was also our first visit in a camp. It is a small one, very close to the village, with around sixty people. A lot of them have already been there for three or four years. They rent the land for 50-60 dollars/month, including the water, and they pay electricity apart. Many rooms and garages of the village are also rented by Syrian refugees. They are in a delicate situation, since the Lebanese government don’t recognize them as  refugees and they are only registered by the UN. We drank tea with Abu Abdala’s family –Abu Abdala, his wife and nine sons and daughters between 20 and 2 years old. It was our first visit to a family and we felt very welcomed. They don’t speak much French –only a little bit the kids, who are becoming polyglots.

The next day, the 27th, we visited two more Syrian families in Bqerzala. We experienced the same feeling of being welcome and at ease in spite of not being able to communicate. Especially the children are open and used to meet new people, being used to express themselves with gestures. We lived quite a big contrast a bit later, when we had lunch with two Maronites sisters from the village. We met them last week in a mass and they invited us to their home, which is actually the school they run here. They prepared a very good meal for us and we liked to see as well their reality and listen to how they perceive it. We agreed for a meeting and prayer with the oldest students when they come back from holidays.

We are knowing and understanding more, we are having more ideas and we start to see what is possible for us to do (today we played football close to the camp and planned a yoga session!). We also wanted to write today with the best wishes for the European Meeting that starts in Riga. We feel in communion with the young people gathered there. May they have a good meeting, that brings unity and leads to engagement!

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One thought on “Christmas in Lebanon

  1. I wish you all the best. You are very courageous. Keep up with your good work with those people. I would like to send a special kiss to Raquel (my student some years ago) Best wishes. Marisa Tomás Santos

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