A Five Weeks Christmas (Raquel)

It makes now three weeks and an half that I am back in Europe. And I try to look back, to those five weeks in Lebanon, as if they were not a dream; but this is hard, sometimes. There are things that we pass through and that touch us in such subtil ways, deeply, and they stay hidden in us… And then we have to force to think, to re-live, to remember, to discover them.

I went to Lebanon with small big words and big dreams deeply scratched on my mind – Peace, testemony, educational activities, inter-religious dialogue… When we arrived, the meeting of this new “system„ of society, balanced upon the division of sects, made the word Reconciliation to stand out, big, pointing a way. And then, slowly, I understood how the small big word Peace was so easily in contradiction, in that place, with other small big word – Justice. And I started to realise how I was naife, thinking I could understand that reality, and judge it, and solve it, through my own perspective. I understood how, as an european, I was there so naive, and inevitably so powerful. And then how was it fair that I had the right to be in a place just because I wished to (when any syrian and and lebanese person around would not have that luck), and to think I could do something there when, actually, I understood nothing of what was going on?

From the pictures on TV, back home, I built an image of a place, and of a people, and of a situation, and I created on my mind the image of a beautiful and touching Christmas, spent maybe in a tent, sharing a meal and that evening with syrian refugees. Then, when our Christmas was spent in the confort of the Peace Center home, between us and other volunteers, I was a bit disapointed… And then I came down to reality, and I discovered, little by little, that, this year, my Christmas didn´t took place in just one evening, but I had, instead, a five weeks Christmas! Five weeks of a slow and surprising discovery of a place, of people, and of a reality, the softening of judgement and fixed points of view, and a light that slowly slowly started to shine on other ways of understending, and other ways of being present. And this could not happen in just one night.

The tea in the tents arrived, yes. Not as a big event for Christmas eve, but as daily simple invitations, where the time togheter was the most precious gift. Without big actions, without material things or even a fluent conversation that we could share, I discovered how the most important, there, is to share a presence, a being, a time. And I was surprised, and very touched, how we were welcomed everywhere with such joy, trust, simplicity, generosity, for the simple wish of people to share their time with us.

The old church in Bqerzala always felt a bit empty of people during our prayers, and, once more, I slowly discovered that, in that village, with so alive religious traditions, a Taiye style prayer was not a major need, and it was either not up to us to come and spread an ecumenical message. Again, our simple presence was seen as a big gift, I believe, and, withouth realizing, just our being there was a testemony enought of reconciliation, somehow. I think so. This was told to us by some of the youth of the village in the evening of our last prayer: that it was for them very important that us, as european volunteers in the Peace Center, were willing to meet them and the population of Bqerzala, that we came to meet all, and not just the syrian refugees.

In the same way, if we thought we didn´t give too much to the syrian people – as we were lacking the language, or an organized educational program, or even time – the truthfull “Thank you„ of Abu Abdalla, in the end, made me realize that, again, our being there was maybe more important for some people than I would ever supose. Maybe… I believe so. And it was in the beauty of this meetings, by its simplicity, that I could find God everyday – in all people, on their diversity, the same simple and genuine welcome, the same love.

In the end, the time felt to short…

Finally, if I lived all this, I didn´t live it alone. Our small community was like the safe rock through all the way, and this “five weeks of Christmas„ were the most special and beautiful because they were shared on a daily community life. Each question, each dificulty, each joy, was lived togheter, given to others, suported by the others… And each day started and finished as well on this shared prayer, on this common nourishing of Gods love. And I am so thankful for that, to Maria, Julia and Rafaela, for having lived with met this Christmas, that would not make sense to be lived alone…

Now back to Europe I remember all this with joy, I thank everyone who made this way with me – the girls, Taize and brother Leo, Relief and Reconciliation and Friedrich, everyone I met in Lebanon, and everyone I left back home – and I wonder how to don´t stop this way… How to keep alive all this moments on my life back to Europe… I wonder what will come next!

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