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CALENDAR OF EVENTS

February 2019
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Middle East Peace Programs

Lebanon - Thirty-Six Meetings in Three Days

As part of UPF's fourth Peace Tour, Lebanon received a special delegation of 22 Ambassadors for Peace who flew directly there from the United States to spend three days delivering Peace Messages around the country. In the wake of the summer 2006 war, it was a special blessing for Lebanon to receive such a delegation in November. It was led by Dr Chang Shik Yang and Dr Michael Jenkins, co-chairs of UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative, and included two bishops, seven Christian pastors, and three imams.

 

Teamwork

UPF’s secretary general in Lebanon, Thomas Schellen, proposed that, instead of asking individual Ambassadors for Peace to probe uncharted terrain, we form pairs or groups of Ambassadors for Peace who would travel together for a day, conducting several events together. This proved a highly successful approach, building bonds among international Ambassadors for Peace as well as between them and local Lebanese Ambassadors for Peace and Japanese and European staff.

Considering the size of the local UPF staff, local Ambassadors for Peace support was vital. An example of this was the dedicated contribution of Sahar Masri, daughter of a leading Druze leader who himself hosted one of the largest events. Sahar took several days off work to help us organize the logistics, in particular travel arrangements for nine Ambassadors for Peace teams who needed to conduct events in various parts of the country. In addition, we were blessed with precious help from Japanese and European volunteers.

Variety

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this series of events was the great variety of venues and groups visited. Religious groups visited included Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Armenian Catholic, Maronite and Orthodox Christians. Venues included family homes, schools, churches, mosques, orphanages, city halls, the parliament, monasteries and universities, as well as the offices of Amnesty International and UPI. In two days we completed 36 such visits.

The third day was set aside for a visit to other parts of Lebanon, beginning with Sidon (Saida) and moving on to the Imam Sadr Foundation, a Shia Muslim foundation which runs an orphanage for 1150 orphans, eight hospitals in southern Lebanon and two mobile clinics. Discussions with the foundation’s leaders revealed deep compassion and a strong sense (from Imam Sadr himself, as quoted by his sister) that “before we are anything else we are all human” and that our “dignity comes from God.” We proceeded to visit the ruins of ancient Tyre (Sur), before returning to Beirut, where we visited the Dahia area which had been heavily bombed during the summer war.

Many delegates were struck by their experience in Lebanon. Some mentioned the strong family ties they had found. One wrote: “the real success was when we visited the families…If you truly want to know about Lebanon, go and visit the families.” In another case, a family told of how their father, during the civil war, had taken in another family whose colleagues had fired on his own family just two years earlier. One Maronite priest prayed with us at the end of our visit, comparing it to the visit of the three guests to Abraham. One Muslim delegate wrote the following in his report to the Muslim leadership in Michigan:

"The strong message of UPF is the God-centered global vision promoting nonviolent action that builds foundation for peace through strong, loving families and communities that live for the sake of others. The message is middle ground rooted neither totally in religion nor secular to create a broad based coalition that differentiates itself from extreme religious/sectarian positions to establish a global culture of peace. This is just one of those things we ought to be involved in as our interfaith effort to build inclusive and diverse communities. I accepted the invitation on that basis. Muslim presence/participation is essential as stewards of Allah (SWT). At the least, Muslims must try to support those who have taken the lead."

Ambassadors for Peace

In most cases, the US delegates returned to the US. Two, however, did not. Imam Ceesay, who had only come into contact with UPF prior to coming to Lebanon, agreed to rearrange all his affairs and travel onto Malaysia to join the tour there. Rev. Kuffour, when I passed the phone to him on the bus coming back from Tyre, greeted James Flynn, who was calling from the United States. The remainder of his conversation went like this: “Where?...... Malaysia?...... OK.” Such is the dedication of these men and women to peace!

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