Conference "Teresa of Avila. A writer of the Renaissance" in Madrid
By Amaya Álvarez.
When we first arrived in Lebanon, the first thing we noticed, especially after Africa, was an intense cold. We, who thought we have dodged winter and we find it squarely. The second thing, a deep sense of hospitality, that is completely connected with culture.
It is not hard to imagine centuries ago the same attention with the traveler. Water, food and shelter is the basic offer when you arrive to any place.
What keeps being shocking is how cosmopolite and modern is Beirut, without losing neither its traditional and oriental character. Tour its streets makes you feel in the middle of a surprising balance between Occident and Orient, between tradition and avant-garde. It is a country where you realize fast that nothing never has been seen from an only prism. It is an ensemble of things and you realize it from the first moment, just by looking from the window of the car. Billboards of advertisements in Arab, in English, multiracial models… sobriety and shine. Contrasts touch in each corner.
Then, dialoguing with many persons you start to understand the complexity and depth of the social fabric and the Lebanese story.
They have 18 different religions, mainly Christians and Muslims, but inside the same, Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites; on the other side, Maronites, Orthodoxs, Catholics, Latins, Melkits, Druzes, protestants. Hereto you have to add the growing number of Palestinian and Syrian that arrive to Lebanon looking for security, augmenting that way the variety of cultures and beliefs in a country that barely exceed the 10.000 km2. Another peculiarity that marks the Lebanese society is that a big part of its population lives abroad, here they say with humor that there are more Lebanese outside Lebanon that in the country itself, and it is true.
And in this situation, where the difference is the common note, Lebanese fight for balance and peace of what they were an example years before. Apparently, the harmony reigns, in the visit of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon, in Harissa, we could see how Muslims and Christians go equally to this place. And it is not hard to imagine, seeing the couples and groups making pictures from the lookout, a pacifical convivial. Nevertheless, it is true that in the moment you get to the power spheres convivial gets a little more complex.
Another curious fact I didn’t knew was that Lebanon has been without a president for 6 months, due to the inability of coming to an agreement.
It makes me think that, between individuals the convivial is not so hard, here there are mosques and churches nearby, it is in the moment when we get to other spheres when it starts to generate the fights of power and, from there, the hates. Walking through the streets and neighborhoods, you don’t feel any tension. Nevertheless, it would be necessary to stay a lot more time in Lebanon to understand that the surface of that peace is thin. And the social fracture is not yet completely saved.
Mid-Orient is not a place about which it is easy to have an opinion, it is in much the origin of several reigning civilizations in the planet, and at the same time, place disputed during the centuries in what has conformed an amalgam of influence both strong and hardly mixable.
I think it is the maxim example of the challenge we are getting exposed all humanity. Peace and respect towards the other. I think that if you reach it here, you can dream with this peace in any part because there is not a scenario apparently more conflictive than this one. And Lebanon is ahead on this fight. And today, it lives in peace.
The Carmelites have not a very numerous presence in here, but they knew how to tip in their efforts very intelligently in education, and they run several schools of fame all over Lebanon. I think it is the key, education and respect. An example of life in community and harmony. A grain of sand, that can seem little, but it is not like that at all, to bring this place of the world to be the pacific example it was.
Thanks for the shared moments, for showing us one of the most beautiful places we have seen in this trip, the Valley of the Saints and, specially, for not surrender never in this teaching of love and harmony. Greetings from here to all the Discalced Carmelites of Lebanon.