Lebanon: Society of Jesus helps establish a link between faith and social commitment

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Lebanon: Society of Jesus helps establish a link between faith and social commitment

By Fady Noun/ asianews.it

The Jesuits have brought together a group of 350 young Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Jordanians and French in Jamhour. Participants are invited to establish a link between faith and social commitment, meeting role models of action and immersing themselves in concrete situations. For some speakers, the comfort of the West could prove to be an illusion.

This summer has provided an opportunity for solidarity to more than 350 young people. Guided by the Society of Jesus, they chose "the best part", that of giving for “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Organised by the Jesuit province of the Middle East, the Regional Youth Days (RYD) got under way last Saturday, 27 July, until 4 August, at the Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour, with the support of l’Œuvre d’Orient, and a dozen volunteers from France, Egypt and Lebanon. The KTO French Catholic TV network is also present.

"Stay in the East, make a difference; your peace depends upon its peace" is the theme of the RYD, which should have had more resources and better logistics. Still, the event has brought together young Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Jordanians and French aged between 18 and 30 years.

The Palestinians could not get an entry visa, and the Lebanese "did not really answer the call," laments Father Gaby Khairallah SJ, one of the organisers of the RYD’s sixth edition whose main purpose is to help young people make the link between their faith and their commitment to the city and the world.

Somewhat forgotten, the young French participants got involved in the small groups, where young Arabs from different countries can speak to each other and tell each other their truths.

Making a difference

Sunday was devoted to introducing young people to some 15 Lebanese and Arab civil society figures whose action “made a difference”. The long day was held at the college’s small and stifling amphitheatre and in the classrooms where participants split up in groups of 15-20.

Speakers included Father Nawras SJ came from Cairo, Middle East Council of Churches secretary Souraya Bechaalani, Offre-Joy’s spirited leader Melhem Khalaf, famous Erbil radio host Nour Matti, Egyptian ecumenical action star Anis Issa, Raoul Follereau Foundation Lebanese chief Roger Khairallah, al-Salam radio (Erbil, Iraq) star Shahad el-Khoury, and Pascal Maguesyan, French head of the Mesopotamia Foundation, which is dedicated to saving that civilisation’s unforgettable heritage.

Officials from the Labora association, which connects young Christians to the public service, and Philippe Adaïmi, Trade Lebanon’s dynamic promoter of rural production, were also present as were representatives from the Hope Centre in Aleppo, which focuses on microprojects and family support, the American Etti Foundation for leader training, and Father Youssef Sadek, a specialist in evangelisation through theatre and self-exploration via theatrical exteriorisation, who on Saturday evening presented a play he wrote about love and commitment.

All these role models of action, based primarily on a deep personal encounter with Christ, were invited in order to encourage young people who want to believe in the future of their country to broaden their vision and become involved in associations and humanitarian groups, as well as show them that something is possible and that faith can "move mountains".

Basically, the goal is to help young people discover that their grain of salt is essential to give taste to their respective societies and to a life that otherwise would have no other flavour than that of defeatism, passivity not to mention migration. In the latter case, where to? The West? Some of the speakers warned that the comfort of the West may well prove to be an illusion. There too, there are millions of homeless people, but it is a shelter of meaning to life that they lack, and Social Security cannot help it.

Peace that exceeds all understanding

Some key things were said on Sunday about these issues. Among the most coherent were the words of Anis Issa, a man of confidence of Tawadros II, the Coptic Pope, who spoke of "the peace of Christ who surpasses all understanding", a man who was able to gather in his action all the Christian legacies of his own life as a young man raised in the once cosmopolitan cities of Alexandria and Port Said, carrying all the Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical traditions. "Take the initiative," he told young people, "form a community around it, ignore successes and failures, and count on God for fruits, work in the Church and forget hierarchies, talk to everyone, person to person. You will be heard sooner or later.”

The painful questions young people had did not always find an answer. And for good reason. What can one tell a young Syrian from Aleppo who shyly asserts that the war was imposed on them and that all it revealed to them is their inability to change anything, until it "ends"?

The triumphalism of those who have succeeded, no matter how meritorious the sacrifices and passion invested in rebuilding Iraq, is not necessarily something that can be replicated. Noor Matti succeeded in Erbil, but what does this young man know after growing up in the United States, where his parents fled early on from the ravages of war? For him, all young Arabs belong to the same nation. Hold on! That is true. Something unites these young people; to begin with, their problems and their deep questioning, as well as the relationship to Islam. But one cannot erase all the distinctive features by an exhortation inspired by the passion to act, nor by the years spent in shelters, queues and shortages. Each situation has its possibilities and hopes.

At a crossroad

Starting today, the meeting will include immersions in concrete situations. Some participants will go to the Holy Valley, others will visit a care and vocational centre for the disabled in Bickfaya, whilst others will spend time in cooperatives or missions beginning with the Jesuit centre in Taanayel, etc. In small groups, they will have to do an "experiment", akin to the experience of spiritual and human disorientation that each Jesuit must do before he “finds himself". In this case, it will be a "mini-experiment", followed at the end of the week by a “review”.

The Arab world is "at a crossroad", and with it, the whole world. Some give Islam a century to reform or disappear. Globalisation is the realisation that humanity is one, and that global warming and natural resources depletion by unfettered capitalism will affect the entire planet. In such a critical situation, the days at Jamhour, after offering viable solutions at the local level, also offer an ultimate spiritual solution, that of "giving one's life" for those one loves, as did two great martyrs, Fr Franz Van der Lugt, martyred in Aleppo in 2014, and Fr Nicolas Kluiters, who shed his blood in the Bekaa during Lebanon’s civil war, in 1985. Both died for refusing to give up.

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 09:32
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