Last days in Akkar

Our stay in coming to the end and we wish to share with you what we have been doing these last days in Lebanon. It has been a joyful and grateful time, in which we have appreciate some results or achievements of our work here.

On Tuesday 17th we welcomed in Bqerzala Chou, a Chinese friend of Maria who has joined our small community for the last week. She followed with us the usual schedule: classes in Tal Aabbas camp, homework help in the Peace Center and open prayer in the old church of Bqerzala. On Wednesday morning we went again to the Orthodox liturgy to say goodbye to the community there. As other times, they were very welcoming and we had together the first cup of coffee of the day. In the evening we were invited to Toufic’s home. He is a man from Bqerzala who lived in Brazil for five years and speaks Portuguese fluently. We had a nice time with him and his son and two daughters and we could understand a bit more what kind of life a Lebanese family has. Next day we had the chance to meet another family, the one from the only Lebanese kid who comes to the Peace Center for homework help. Beforehand we had welcomed in the house Ilias, a young Syrian man who works with the Orthodox Metropolitan Basilios and who is interested in collaborating with R&R.

Friday was the last playing time with the children of Bqerzala, we wanted to do something especial to say goodbye to them. We painted, danced and ate cake and chocolate. It was a joyful moment, we realized that we got to know each other and shared valuable moments with them and their families. In Tal Aabbas the “good-bye party” was on Saturday morning. We also painted, danced, shared a cake and modeled figures with plasticine. We felt happy because they behaved very well and so we were able to make things that they enjoyed. But at the same time we were sorry because they have to say good-bye to people too often, they receive many volunteers and visits that treat them well but leave after a short time. That day R&R also distributed oil for the stoves to each family of the camp.

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By the midday we were very glad to be welcomed by two sheiks, one of them the secretary of the Akkar Mufti, the highest Muslim authority in the region. They talked about the sense of Islam, the problems their religion faces now because of the extremisms, the living together with Christians, the expectations and realities of Muslims when they go to Europe. They asked us to transmit the experiences we had here with Muslims –experiences of hospitality, openness, sharing from the simplicity- back home. Even though one can presume that they repeated the politically correct speech Occidentals like to hear, we believed in their good will and work for understanding and living together with other religions and for fighting extremisms inside Islam. The sheiks were glad that we went to them, and that meeting gave us hope and clarity about Islam and how to connect with Muslims back in Europe, as well as how to fight against prejudices and misinformation in our countries.In the evening we had our last prayer in the village. We were very happy that some young people from the Mouvement Apostolique Marial came for the first time and sang Maronite songs. Afterwards we gathered at home and had some time together singing and chatting. For most of them it was the first time they were in the Peace Center, and from now they may collaborate in some activities.

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On Sunday we met the Orthodox youth of Halba, the biggest town close to Bqerzla. We were very touched by the fact that they had prepared a full program for us: we first went to Abuna Fouad’s house and met their wife, son and two of the daughters. They told us that we were the most welcome and that we have a home there. Afterwards we drove to the parish, where around thirty children, teenagers and their leaders were waiting for us. The son of the priest read a warm welcome letter and we introduced ourselves and Taizé. They showed us pictures of their activities and sang for us. After that we had a small prayer in the church, where we also shared a Taizé song ad Abuna Fouad talked about the value of diversity. And we finished eating some cookies and drinking tea. They were very happy to have us there, we could see on them the joy of welcoming.

In these moments of leaving we realize that we have built relationships, we have prayed with different people, we have visited quite a lot of the religious representatives and groups of the region, that for some people our interest for them was meaningful. We found God in the diversity as well as in the simplicity of our actions and of those who welcomed us. We are more aware of the complexity of the world and of the big challenge that peace means. We especially are grateful for the opportunity to be here, to build a small community, to pray together, to share from the simplicity and to receive the unexpected when comes to us. In next posts we will share the conclusions we take from this experience.

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