Harmony of differences within Lebanon
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March 25, 2011—
“United We Celebrate, Divided We Fall” was the theme of the Hyphen Islam-Christianity event, a traveling project emphasizing reconciliation and coexistence that was hosted on LAU’s Beirut campus on March 17.
Hyphen Islam–Christianity’s team has traveled to more than 19 cities across the globe. The project includes a documentary by Nada Raphaël who is the project founder and head, as well as a 700-page collector’s book (winner of a Special Mention at the 2011 France–Lebanon Contest organized by the Association des Écrivains de Langue Française), and a photography exhibition — all depicting the thoughts and images of inhabitants of over 1,200 villages across Lebanon.
The interactive event opened in the Irwin Hall Auditorium with the Tripoli-based Fayha Choir singing the Lebanese National Anthem, followed by a short introductory speech by Dr. Elise Salem, vice president for Student Development and Enrollment Management at LAU.
“This should be a celebration of our differences, of our potential, and of our Lebanon,” said Salem.
Raphaël’s documentary stressed the need for Lebanese to look past their religious differences to find their similarities as citizens. “Hyphen Islam–Christianity is not about politics; it’s about how to live together,” Raphaël explained.
One interviewee in the documentary recalled a Christian man entering a mosque for the first time and asking, “What’s the difference? This is still the House of God.” Another mentioned evangelical schools in Tripoli, Lebanon, with a Muslim–Christian student ratio of roughly 3 to 1, where students are instructed by nuns.
After the film screening, Raphaël took questions from the audience.
The award-winning Fayha Choir, comprising 50 young women and men from various religious and cultural backgrounds, followed with a live performance conducted by maestro Barkev Taslakian. The choir has received many awards, including two by the Warsaw International Choir Festival.
The choir’s diversity was also reflected by eclectic musical selections ranging from Palestinian to Armenian and Egyptian. “Al Kassam,” dedicated to the late Gebran Tueni, perhaps most poignantly captured the unity and pluralism of Lebanon.
The event closed with a cocktail reception where the crowd mingled next to an enormous bowl of tabbouleh, a picture of which was also depicted on the cover of the event’s program booklet.
“One of the purposes of this very moving event was to get away from petty Lebanese politics and materialism, to get back to more profound issues, to the importance of what makes us Lebanese,” Salem reflected near the end of the evening.
The event was organized by the Safadi Foundation, LAU, and the Faculty of Religious Sciences – Institute of Islamic–Christian Studies of the Université Saint-Joseph, within the Islamo-Christian Dialogue Week in Lebanon. The following two days, it was also hosted at the Safadi Cultural Center in Tripoli and at USJ.
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