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    » 03/24/2009, 00.00

    LEBANON

    Islamic-Christian celebration to honour the Virgin Mary, symbol of national unity



    On the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, Lebanon’s government launches a joint Christian-Muslim celebration in honour of Mary who is venerated in both communities. In the square in front of Lebanon’s National Museum a statue of Our Lady will be erected surrounded by a crescent. The initiative might be extended to other countries.
    Beirut (AsiaNews) – Tomorrow 25 March will be the first “Islamic-Christian Day” in honour of the Virgin Mary, L’Orient-Le Jour reports today in an article signed by Fady Noun, who notes that the new festivity will fall on the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary according to the Christian liturgical calendar.

    “Together around Mary, Our Lady,” is the title chosen for the celebration, which will be more of a national event than a religious one. At present it is not a statutory holiday but it could become one in “the near future, in addition to traditional celebrations of the Annunciation.”

    “It will make the Virgin Mary, who is revered by Muslims and Christians alike, a factor of unity among Lebanese of every faith,” the French-language daily wrote.

    The final decision, which was three years in the making, came on 13 March in a meeting of the Lebanese cabinet.

    The idea of making the Virgin Mary a symbol of a joint Christian-Muslim celebration came to Sheikh Mohammad Nokkari, general secretary of Dar el-Fatwa, or ‘House of Decree”, during Annunciation celebrations at Jamhour College.

    Emir Harès Chehab and Mohammad Sammak, who co-chair the Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee, welcomed the initiative as did Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

    Beirut Mayor Abdel-Monhem Ariss responded positively to a demand by the initiative’s promoters to erect a statue of Mary in front of Lebanon’s National Museum. The square where the statue will be located is actually a major intersection and might be renamed in honour of the Virgin Mary. The statue itself would “reproduce a stylised Virgin Mary surrounded by a crescent moon,” Islam’s symbol par excellence.

    A religious ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow in the chapel of Our Lady College in Jamhour, during which “Christians and Muslims will be able to pray together to the Virgin Mary.”

    In addition to prayers, there will be songs, psalms, sacred music, testimonials, readings, as well as audio and video tapes.

    Sheikh Amr Khaled, one of the Arab world’s most important preachers, will attend the ceremony. Mgr Salim Ghazal, chairman of the Commission for Islamic-Christian dialogue of the Assembly of Maronite Patriarchs and Bishops, will also be there.

    Organisers, according to the Lebanese paper, hope that their “initiative will lead to more.

    Contacts have already been made so that next year “similar ceremonies could be held in six other countries, namely Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Poland, Italy and France.”

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    See also

    19/02/2010 LEBANON
    Beirut, "national" Islamic-Christian holiday in the name of the Annunciation of Mary
    The official decision could be reached during the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon, scheduled for tomorrow at the Vatican. It will have a more "national" than "religious" character and will be a symbol of unity among the citizens. The day of celebration marked by a common social, cultural and religious program.

    25/03/2010 LEBANON
    Lebanese Christians and Muslims celebrate the Annunciation together in the name of Mary
    Lebanon celebrates for the first time a national Christian-Muslim holiday. Schools, banks and public buildings are closed. Prime Minister Hariri says the day is a spiritual occasion for everyone. For Muslim leader, it is a tangible sign of dialogue between the two religions.

    13/10/2008 NEPAL
    Nepalese Muslims "happy" to celebrate feast together with Hindus
    The festival of Dashain, one of the most important moments for Hindu tradition, has become an occasion of "social harmony" and interreligious dialogue. Positive assessments from Hindu and Muslim leaders, who promote the "sharing of moments of celebration."

    14/07/2009 LEBANON
    Leading Muslim cleric promoter of Islamic-Christian dialogue quits
    Shaykh Mohammed Nokkari, who first launched the idea of a joint celebration in the name of Mary, gets in a verbal tiff with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti who is against the project. Despite his resignation he wants to continue working for inter-faith dialogue.

    26/05/2006 LEBANON
    Five thousand take part in the 'Asian Women Pilgrimage' to Our Lady of Lebanon
    The women, decked out in various dresses, chanting songs and reciting intentions of prayer in many languages, visit the shrine in Harissa.



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