“Keep the flame of hope alive” (Rafaela)

You know nothing when it comes to the Middle East. We, Europeans, know nothing. This was something we heard a few times during our stay in Lebanon. And I remember it very well. Yes, it is true that we don’t know much about the Middle East, Lebanon or Arab culture. But it is not true that we know nothing at all about them. Nonetheless, walking around Lebanese villages, we look a bit, naive, silly and touristic. But I think it is a good sign, it shows that we are curious to see, to learn and to know how thing are here. For me, it was something very new, I’ve never been to the Middle East before. I never had any knowledge of Arab culture or history so I was really curious. I was very happy to learn a lot of things from the people we met.

During our stay I got really inspired by the kids we worked with. They don’t live in very good conditions but they simply accept things the way they are, or maybe they just don’t know any better, which is very sad. Because of the language barrier, I couldn’t really talk to them, but we did connect, having fun together during class or recreational activities and they always seemed very happy. They just make the best out of it, as children do in general, with joy and love.

It is heart breaking when you look into their big and beautiful eyes and think about what the future is holding for them. Nothing, the prospects for a successful future for them here in Lebanon are very small, unless they are lucky enough to have their families resettled to another country. Even if the war in Syria stopped now and they were able to go back to their homes, they would find their houses in ruins, their home cities destroyed. It all seems very hopeless. And that is why we, and also the other volunteers, were or still are there. ‘To keep the flame of hope alive’.

I feel very enriched by the encounters with the kids. They reminded me again how important it is to love. At first to love yourself, and when you feel this strong and beautiful love inside, start to spread it, start to share it with others. You don’t have to change the world. But you can do simple things, like sharing joy and fun with others. Or sometimes it is enough to be only a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen. I believe that everyone is able to show this little gestures of love. It is a choice everyone has to take. And it starts very deep inside every person.

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Also, it was so nice to meet the local Lebanese community. It took time to reach them. But with time some of them were getting interested in connecting with us. Some young people started to join our prayers in the old church of Bqerzala. I remember some very nice evenings with them at the Peace Centre or at the nice Manaish place (Diner & bakery) in the village. I am very grateful for everything they shared with us in such a simple, natural and funny way.

 

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I would say it wasn’t always very easy to be there, in Lebanon. Often, I felt very frustrated or useless, but the longer we were there, the more I learned and the better I knew how to handle different situations. I am very grateful that I got the chance to participate in this beautiful project. All in all, it was an amazing experience for me, which I will never forget.

 

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Very special thanks to Maria, Raquel, Julia, Friedrich, R&R Lebanon, the Taizé Community, Brother Leo, Samer, Abby, Johnny, Michael and all the people we met during our journey. Also to you, the readers of our blog.

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