On Monday we started in the early morning with a common prayer and breakfast. From 7am children began to arrive and we could see their work in action. The school belonged to the Marists in Rmayleh and was destroyed during the conflicts in the country and not being used for a while. Since their arrival, the brothers renovated part of the building and are using it for several educational projects: homework help, classes for those who are not going to school, for those who will incorporate to school soon, for preschoolers… They hired local teachers and around 340 children and young people go there every morning or afternoon, besides of playing times. After going to all classes to greet the students and the teachers, we said goodbye to the brothers and went to visit the old part of Sidon. First we found the Sea Castel, built by the crusaders as a fortress of the Holy Land. Then we entered to the Khan El-Franj (“Inn of the Foreigners”), from the 17th century. We visited the souk and bought some spices and tea, but we didn’t manage to go inside the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas. It was built in the 8th century and it has a Greek Catholic part and a Maronite part –the last one is not used anymore. We drank a lemonade in an old café that we wanted to visit because it had one of the last storytellers of the Middle East. The owner showed us the place and explained to us how the storytelling was happening. We entered in a restored traditional house from the 18th century and to an old synagogue that became a normal house.
At the beginning of the afternoon we left Sidon to Beirut. There we went to the seat of Adyan, a foundation that goes beyond the traditional interreligious dialogue: they believe that religions can be and must influence positively the society. They work on different levels –academic research, media, training social leaders in citizenship and diversity- and we attended a meeting with master students. After a presentation of Adyan we had the privilege to listen to two of the founders: Father Fadi Daou, a Maronite priest, and dr. Nayla Tabbara, a Muslim professor. They mainly talked about the salvation of believers of other religions or non believers according to their respective religious traditions. It was very inspiring for us and in the end we could share a bit with Nayla, who was in Taizé in 2015 during the Solidarity Week. After that we went to a Taizé prayer organized in Franciscan chapel. We met Ziad, his son and a few more people. When it was finished we had the opportunity to get to know them a bit more in Agnes’ home –she is a French woman who lives with her family in Beirut and knows Taizé very well. Around 9pm we started our way back to the North, to Bqerzla.
We are grateful as we had very special days: learnt more about the history and the culture of this region, we have met interesting people and we have enjoyed being together!