In Lviv the experts suggested the recipe for religious reconciliation on the example of Lebanon.

2021-12-10 09:45

The webinar was organized by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University, in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung in Ukraine.

The webinar moderator, a director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of UCU, Pavlo Smytsnyuk, is convinced that the experience of Lebanon will be useful for Ukraine, as we are trying to investigate the conflict in Donbass and develop the response to this war, which is rooted in theology and peacebuilding.

"We believe that one of the ways to look at the conflict is the opportunity to learn from the other similar conflicts. This is how we can stand away from our situation and look at it through the lenses of other conflicts and other initiatives on peacebuilding. We are convinces that this will give us the possibility to take rational and practical decisions into this conflict. We want to study the creativity of other Churches and religions outside Ukraine+", - Pavlo Smytsnyuk explains.

In his opinion, Lebanon is a rather interesting and unique case. We can draw a couple of parallels between Lebanon and Ukraine.

"Lebanon, as well as Ukraine, has an incredible variety of traditions, various Christian denominations, which co-exist and cooperate. Lebanon – is a country that has suffered a lot, and we can only sympathize, and also country has overcome a lot of sufferings and tensions. Lebanon – is a country where churches are very much involved in the social and political life of the country. Whether the Churches are involved to a right degree – is something that we can explore", - he is convinced.

But the redemptorist-nun, Dr. Alfonsa (Karapata) from the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer, who studied and served in Lebanon, had an opportunity to feel the atmosphere of religious peace from inside, so to say.

“Seeing the Lebanon as the laboratory of peacebuilding is also a deep expression of Lebanon identity. John Paul II mentioned that Lebanon – is more that just a country, Lebanon – is a message. This is the country that underwent very serious crisis, was wounded, but always with great experience, this is the country which knows how to build peace not in the post-conflict context, but during the hot phase of the conflicts it finds the keys to peace. This is a valuable example for Ukraine. These two remote countries have a long history of relations, of religious and ecumenical character, these relations fit into the peacebuilding processes, that are marked with solidarity and mutual support of the Churches. Over one thousand years, Ukraine and Lebanon are united by one Saint – the martyr Barbara, who is originally from the territory of Lebanon. And her body is in Kyiv since the XI century. For me the presence of Saint Barbara in Kyiv is a sign of a spiritual connection with our Christian traditions of the East”, - sister Alfonsa shares her thoughts.

Ecumenism in Lebanon – is the question of life and death, in Ukraine the question is not so urgent. The sister’s recipe is to build the peace inside of us as the task of the present time.

The director of the Institute of the Christians of the East, Dr. Antoine Fleyfel believes that what is happening now in Lebanon refers to all the Christians – is what is happening everywhere in the Near East (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine).

"This is a region, devastated by several wars. We do not have only one kind of war, several wars, of course, the ugliest one – is the military war. We have already forgotten when the war started. The problems began in 1960-70s. Another war – is the ideological war, where a couple of enemies are fighting for almost two centuries: arabism, zionism, islamism and many other nationalisms. The military war is linked to the ideological one. We also hear about the ideology of political islamism", - the scholar assures.

The third war – is a political one. Each social community, as we do not have the notion of citizenship in the Middle East, wants the power to itself. I talk about at least two kinds of a community: religious and ethnical. The ethnical war – the curds want the freedom for themselves as curds, and not as a religious group.

"The Near East is devastated by a number of wars. The nature of these wars is multiple – local, regional, international. This part of the world is being played by great powers since the eighteenth century. The Eastern Question – is the question of how these big powers can take over this region", - Dr. Antoine Fleyfel contemplates.

A century ago the end of the First World War has drawn a new map of the Middle East. This fact also alternated a lot of circumstances and people’s moods.

"We seem to be today in the era of reconfiguration, where construction of peace is not a luxury, because human tombs are particularly heavy among dead, wounded and displaced persons. Not to mention, of course, the destruction of not only private property, but also of structures and infrastructures in several countries. We need thousands of billions of dollars to reconstruct such countries, for example, like Syria. And structures – are the political and state structures, which are today in a miserable situation", - Dr. Antoine Fleyfel says.

How can ecumenism contribute to the reconstruction of peace: 4 points.

1. We need to make an inventory to understand what is really happening. If we are looking for peacebuilding that means that peace is not here, that we are in the context of wars. These military actions vary, depending on the context: the war in Syria is not the same as the war in Iraq, and the military actions in Palestine are not the same as what is happening in Lebanon.

So, we have several problematic points, but all they cause a lot of damage:

• these military actions are creating the culture of hatred, as we can not see no other, but who can help me, who can build me and rich me. The other is someone I have to kill because it is the enemy;

• the collapse of societies. If we go to these countries, we will see how societies are collapsing. We are witnessing the creation of the culture of death, how many military actions today are made in the name of killing the other: if we die it’s good, because God wants it. I think God wants life, He does not want death. The culture of death is rising.

• economic issues. Peacebuilding is not only about stopping guns, but this is also economic issue. Economy and war are very tightly linked, as money is the core of the war.

• Religious ideological thoughts that are now in the Near East: political islam (Al Qaeda), religious zionism (occupied territory in Palestine), Zionist evangelism.

The wars, that are conducted in the Near East, have different kind of nature and they are all linked.

2. Christians are particularly affected by this situation. The first reason, due to the demography, because they are the minority. At the end of the XX century, the third of the Lebanese were Christians. And now they are 3-4%. The Christian demography in the Middle East shows us that the Christian community suffers more, as they are lees in number. The other reason is the struggle for power. The Christians do not have power in the meaning of the human rights. Lebanon – is the country, which was made for Christians a hundred years ago, and today they do not have rights. It is Hezbollah who is making the politics of Lebanon.

3. Ecumenism has made its way in the Near East for several decades. The Middle East Council of Churches played a very important role to make ecumenism a reality in the Near East. Despite the actions of the Council of Churches, we have a lot of problems on the level of ecumenism. Some of these problems are the expression of the international problems. Ecumenism in the Middle East and Lebanon is not in the good shape, for political reasons also.

4. It’s true that ecumenism is spiritual, theological and ecclesiological reality. The Lord asks us to do ecumenism. The Churches should aim to build communion again, as the separation is the lack of love. Ecumenism in the Middle East has the political dimension, that is avoided. The Christians in the Middle East need unity to witness together and to effect changes.