Beirut (AsiaNews) - At a time when spiritual darkness is spreading over parts of the Middle East, the death of Sheikh Hani Fahs, 68, has elicited an emotional response among political and religious leaders that is far greater than one might expect from his media exposure. It is as if in death, one of Lebanon's truest voices for interfaith dialogue, a man of great openness, finally found his true stature, one that he embodied by virtue of his own character as well as his knowledge and faith.
Fr Fadi Daou, founder of the Adyan Foundation, was one of the last friends to visit the great thinker in the intensive care unit where he was hospitalised. Standing by the bed, next to intubated body of the dying scholar, F Daou prayed "that God may never deprive Lebanon and the Arab world of fatherly figures of his clarity, i.e. people who live in accordance with their faith and practice what they say."
This year, the Adyan Foundation had awarded the great scholar its Spiritual Solidarity Prize but had to bestow it posthumously. In announcing the award, Fr Fadi Daou said that what he particularly liked in Hani Fahs was "his distrust of religious men using their authority as an argument, and his closeness to those who humbly, courageously and freely sought God, whatever their religion."
"You told me: I am a beggar, I beg the love of God and man," said Father Daou, quoting the great man. "This inner freedom led you to feel responsible for your fellow men, take on their causes, without hesitating or counting your efforts to defend them".
"You loved young people; you the scientist, the scholar, the teacher," added Adyan's founder. "In the impetus of youth, despite possible distractions," Hani Fahs saw "at least a movement toward the future, at a time in which so many statements and positions take us back. "
Fr Daou hailed Hani Fahs as "a real Muslim who lived his faith to the fullest, as a Shia [. . .] at a time when many claim to be Sunni or Shia and fight accordingly without being real Muslims".
One of the last projects Sheikh Hani Fahs has in mind was a retreat for Christians and Muslims, at the Convent of Christ the Redeemer in Zahle (Bekaa).
Across the country, especially among Christians, many are paying tribute to his memory, mourning the loss of a man who will remain "a bright light in the history of Lebanon" (according to former Prime Minister Nagib Mikati).
Hani Fahs will be buried today in his native village of Jibchit (southern Lebanon).
Like many of his peers, he studied in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. Now, he leaves behind a large opus of writings, but he will be especially remembered as a true friend of Truth.