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We Stand Our Ground in a Time of Violence and War

Posted 10/25/2013

I am happy today to be amongst you. I am a woman from Beirut, Lebanon and a daughter of the Church of the Arabs, which we were desired to witness by God. Within this Church, the Lord wanted us to pray in Arabic, to withstand difficulties and serve, to cross our hearts and chant his resurrection with others, for their sake and ours.

The Arab Spring was firstly known as the youth revolutions in many concerned Arab countries. These youth historical initiatives quickly opened the door for all components of the society oppressed from many decades. Youth with some naivety didn’t know that pacific demonstrations become upraising and that peaceful upraising becomes Revolution and that the military oppression transforms the peacefulness of the revolution to violent reactions… and to forms of civil wars.

 

 

The lost word becomes Peace. The youth who launched the process are again back searching for the lost Peace in the Middle East questioning themselves, their church and the society… which Peace? How to rebuild Peace? How to settle the bases of justice for a solid Peace? What’s the role of the Church and Christian youth to settle this dreamed Peace?

I would have wanted to share with you the experience of the World Student Christian Federation in the Middle East struggling from many decades for Peace. I have a lot to share about this experience on the so-called conservative societies and Churches. Here, I would like to be franc; I feel ashamed of sharing this experience with you, though of high importance, in a time where a river of blood runs steeply in our countries when people decided to stand up and face their oppressors... just because they dared to dream of an Arab Spring, and that for which, they sacrificed their lives. Such spring did not flourish yet.

As for the Church in my society, it now fears in general the fall of tyranny as much as its fears the post revolution.  And in the midst of all these scarifies and martyrs, we tried, in the World Student Christian Federation to remain close to the revolution, with the change that our countries always dreamed of, to keep up with our practice in this crazy violent world. We tried to translate in our populations upraising the meaning of being “the salt of the Earth”, a message for Justice and peace.

The revolutions in the Arab World revealed also many positive forces that were hidden underneath layers of oppression and tyranny which sole purpose was to eradicate these forces.  Nonetheless, in the same time, all forms of deviations and subdivisions also appeared. It is no secret that the religion was the umbrella for all these groups. Within an Islamic shape lies a political core that has no problem in using all forms of violence to fuel the revolution and to fulfill an ancient dream of an Islamic realm. We live in a violent context where every party is targeting Peace… but his own definition of Peace… So also we’re in the Middle of churches between different concepts of Peace.

It is not easy in the contemporary Arab World to preserve a free spirit, capable of critique. Even with the onset and fulfillment of revolutions, freeing women was never an aim. Nonetheless, marginalizing woman is still in process after the revolutions in the Arab world. Whatever the motives were, women withstood the marginalization and took part in all direct and indirect up raisings. Sometimes “she” led the revolution activities and in others, “she” was led. She was also imprisoned, killed ... She strived to make a change, though siding with her harassers.  She walked beside them in order to fight all the oppressors. Without any doubt, before, during and after the revolutions, religion was and is still the background for all this harassment. Unfortunately, the tone of the political language of some Islamists sharpened during and after the revolution regarding the ill treatment of women. But also, the Church marginalization of women remained even in different forms unfortunately. The past revolutions Peace continued to marginalize women in the Middle East.

A shallow reading of the post revolution happenings reveals its causes: it is the unwillingness of Islamic parties to propose a new society project to solve the socio economical and practical problems, which led to revolutions. Most of the ruling Islamists look as not capable of achieving on the economical and political level, so they tried to insist on the sociological level starting again by the control of people’s daily behavior, considered by them as an easy target and may be the only target to successfully hit. There are attempts to legalize early marriages, circumcision, and wearing the veil. This is in addition to the establishment of private schools for women and other weird and sometimes nasty legislations that are diminishing to women… This concept of Peace will lead to alter revolutions.

Is this the revolution and its results? We assure: No … Our impression is that the Change is just starting in the Middle East with a lot of contradictions and negative initiatives launched under the umbrella of Islam and again under the Religion and its sensitivities for all. But we can never generalize while reading the situation because in the contextuality there is also many positive initiatives and defensive ongoing actions and very important to mention that the Church in general is rarely paying attention to what’s at stake towards justice and peace in the society because the Christian community  “survival” is the priority and any other item is considered “as secondary” in the actual challenges. But also “StJohn taught us that Love exhales fear”.

Those who know the Arab Christian life know that a large number of Christian, though they did not initiate those revolutions, participated in them. Many Christians were stricken by the neutrality of a large number of Muslims that welcomed them with cooperation. Christianity also withstood revolutions and today (especially in Egypt) many are enrolling in parties, leading political movements and revealing a society that they isolated themselves from for a long period of time.

The Arab Christians and especially youth, today live an extreme fear about the future but taken also it is a spiritual challenge … Can we remain really as believers in Jesus Christ in time of violence and war. And maybe, if we remain close to our Lord in this difficult time, Christians can reborn from “high above” as Paul says and transform this tragedy to a renewed era of love between Christians and Muslims.   

We can say, humbly, that the World Student Christian Federation in the Middle East has succeeded in building many regional programs as Ecumenical Leadership, Christian-Muslim dialogue, with topics regarding “church and revolutions” “Church and freedom” and a Women program. We hope that this will ease the process of rebirth in the era so called “youth revolutions” towards a real Peace in the Arab World.

The revolutions in most of the Arab countries were called “the youth revolutions” very spontaneous in the beginning but were lately dominated y many local and international forces of hegemony … Most of the youth who made the revolutions were shocked discovering the realities in their societies dominated longtime by the dictatorships who hided and manipulated the population dynamics before the big change initiated by the revolutions which permitted to the authentic social forces to appear as they are on the scene before being again manipulated by local and international forces.

But in this process the youth also maturated and started to realize that revolution is not an easy quick process … and that Idealism is not enough to achieve the romantic revolutionary dreams.

The Christian youth in most of the Arab countries were firstly very skeptical before many of them joined the currents for change in the first phase. The shocking realities after the departure of the dictatorships pushed again the Christian youth in general to withdraw, give up, or Emigrate, that was the second phase for them, but after maturating the Christian youth comeback again on the scene willing to be actors for change in the middle of violence and wars in most of the concerned countries. We can easily remark today the birth of a new personality of Christian youth in Egypt especially but also in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon and parts of Sudan. In Syria the level of non violence is a lot of pressure for everybody but at the end of the third year of war, the Christian youth are also evolving and expressing more not only their fear but their will to build a new society of peace and justice in their country.

Arab Christian youth through many WSCF meetings expressed their will to maintain hope beyond the unbearable violence and wars in the Middle East. This hope is somewhere a deep renaissance of faith, which will be also the base for the resurrection of peace in the countries. Our Christian youth affirmed that this resurrected peace by the grace of God will stimulate the Christians in the complexity of the Arab world to give a definition for the dreamed resurrection of Peace as the following:

-                            A real peace should be based on the value of acceptance of “Diversity” which means in political terms “citizenship”.

-                            A real peace in the Middle East should be based on the respect of the “Human Rights” as bases of the new society and also women rights of any new constitution and laws.

-                            A real peace in the Middle East should be based on economical justice between the various categories in the society.

-                            A real peace should be based on freedom for all citizens in their daily life, behavior and political expression.

-                            A real Peace should be based on an equitable solution preserving the Palestinian rights to solve the Arab Israeli conflict.

The Christian youth building peace in the Middle East can’t be done without the full involvement of the church and the Christian community in this historical change. Knowing that we need to strengthen the ecumenical option for more initiation to the culture of dialogue, acceptance of our neighbor in parallel to a new adequate theological expression.

A new resurrection of peace in the Arab society after the violence and wars supposes also a new resurrection of Ecumenism in the life of the Church… This is the challenge for Christian youth for the future of the witnesses of the church and for the future of the whole Arab society.

Some of the youths wanted the World Student Christian Federation to be an embodiment of this change in both the Church and society. And we’re ready to restart up and restart up not only for us but for the life of our Church and the blooming of our society… remembering permanently the word of our Lord in Matthew (7:7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”.