After New Year and the end of holidays, we have started to live in a more regular rhythm. It also coincides with the second half of our stay here –we passed the midway in the middle of last week. On Thursday 5th we visited Tripoli, the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in the country. There we had lunch with Ziad Fahed, a Theology professor in Notre Dame University of Lebanon and a good friend of Taizé brothers. He explained us a bit more of history of the country, and reassured us when he said that we shouldn’t believe any foreigner who pretends to understand it. He shared with us a bit of his projects about interreligious dialogue and then we could visit Tripoli: the immense souk (market), the Citadel de Saint-Gilles –a castle built in 1105 and used during the Crusades- and the best sweets shop. Back in Bqerzla we had our prayer in the church village and we ate “manaeesh” –a kind of Lebanese pizza- with some young people of the parish.
The Epiphany was a day full of surprises. On the way back home from church, we met by chance the director of the public school. He offered to show us the building and then we saw some other places in Bqerzla. We ended the morning having breakfast in the house of a Lebanese family. At 13h the Syrian children came in the Peace Center for the playing time that they have every Friday. They made their own King’s Crowns and had some games.
Next day we visited the public school again, that time the children were there. Some of the Syrians that come to the Peace Center were very happy to see us there. The director told us that they are at the same level that the Lebanese students, and that they get along well. Afterwards we took advantage of the good weather and went for a walk on the mountains around Bqerzla and other small villages. We noticed that each one of them was from a different religion or Christian confession: Muslim, Greek Orthodox or Maronite. Before lunch we welcomed in the Peace Center two young boys who usually come to our prayers, and we showed them the video about Taizé. They said they would like to live this experience. In the afternoon we attended the ordination of Fouad, the deacon of Bqerzla.
Later on we had few minutes to talk to the leaders of the youth groups of the parish. We talked a bit about Taizé and our work in Lebanon. Some seemed interested, but in general we find difficulties to discuss about ecumenism and interreligious exchanges with both young people and adults. We feel very far away from each other when introducing these topics. That evening a Marist and a La Salle brothers arrived from Saïda, a city in the South of Lebanon, where they have a common mission with refugees. We prayed and had dinner together at home. They came from Spain and Mexico here a bit more than a year ago, and also have met Taizé brothers. We could share about their work and life in Lebanon.
On Sunday 8th we were invited to meet the youth of the Orthodox Church of Hmeira. We first went to greet the old priest. Then they drove us to an old monastery of Saint George built in the rocks, now a bit damaged. We actually found a group of about 40 children, from 6 to 13 years old, and their leaders. They sang for us in a cave, then we went to the current church and talked a bit about Taizé. After that we played some games and we finished with some tea and sweets. We felt very welcomed and we will come back there tomorrow.
On Monday we started the classes in Tal Aabbas camp. We are going there every morning to help the children doing their homework –they go to school on the afternoons. They have most of the subjects in French, but they don’t really understand. We teach them basic French, Maths and anything we can. The plan is that from next week on they will have a fix teacher, as they have the children in Bqerzla. These last ones taught us how to make Syrian tea –with a lot of sugar!- and we drunk it together.
On Tuesday we were invited to have lunch with the Orthodox Patriarch, that we had already met. He came with his brother, his sister in law and his niece. They have Syrian origins but have lived most of their lives in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates and they have travelled a lot, so we could know their vision of the Middle East and the relationships among religions.
Our days now are fuller, we know more people and we feel free to experience what every moment can brings to us. We continue to pray together and the young people that join us share more and more with us. We are preparing activities for the children to play tomorrow and a trip around Lebanon… we will update you with the next days!