Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It pains me to see this, he says.

It's interesting that where one person sees hope, another sees conflict. In so many ways, this typifies the root of Lebanon's unrest. Although they've tried to maintain a "sectarian" government, where no one belief system is espoused as the that of the entire country's, they've also had to design representation to include the main religious groups. Thus, the president is always a Maronite Christian (who, unofficially, must meet with Syria's approval), the Prime Minister is always Sunni, and the Shia are represented by the governmental ministers. Somewhere amongst the members of Members of Parliament, the Druze and other lower-profile groups vie for representation.

The other day, I listened to the bells toll from St. Georges Church downtown, sitting in a slice of shade to protect me from the sun's mid-day blaze, and looked across the street at the Church tucked right up close to Hariri's famous mosque. A Christian church and a Muslim mosque, no just on the same street, but right next to each other. I wondered and hoped that there was a t least a gentleman's agreement that kept the muezzin call and the church bell toll from over-lapping. Apparently there was none in place to prevent the "elves" who, overnight, managed to paper the city with billboards of the young Gemayel's face next to his shot-up car in which he was assassinated last Tuesday. The one you see in the 2nd photo is right in front of the Mosque and the Church.

As I sat day-dreaming, awaiting Nina for another potentially fruitless day at the Ministry of Energy and Water, a Security guard joined me. "This, it hurts me, to see my mosik next to this church." Hm. "How odd," I replied, "I was just thinking what a beautiful sight it is to see two houses that praise the same God, albeit differently, sitting aside each other, bringing believers to this place." He politely but firmly disagreed..and I we parted. What will it take for people to get beyond this need to have every one of us praise in the same way? In the state's we have made strides, but need to go so much further. As disturbed as I was, I had to remind myself that these were the thoughts of one man, who by no means represents all of Lebanon. Many people seem to take their beliefs seriously without needing to impose (every aspect of) their own brand on others. But still...

One aspect of the Druze faith that I find both disturbing and a relief, is that you can only be born into it. You cannot convert or join the faith. What disturbs me is its exclusion, similar to that aspect of Judaism which precludes marrying outside the faith (and for many years was also a tenet of most Christian sects). On the other hand, it means the Druze are not out actively forcing conversions or imposing their sect on others, which is a painful element that has been the seed of most wars. For now, I'll take comfort in the daily sight of veiled women walking with fully westernized girlfriends, snuggled up next to them and laughing between themselves, and to the nod that passes between a Muslim man in his headdress and a Christian man rubbing his rosary beads.

The 1st photo above is one of Beirut's many eerie reminders of the Civil War that raged through the nation in the 70s and 80s. I find it oddly beautiful, as it crumbles into the surrounding palms and the white sand beach.

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