Hundreds of people came together at the Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour to celebrate an annual interfaith ceremony. Sidon Mufti Salim Soussan stressed moderation and rejected violence. Disability as source of diversity and beauty was the main theme, with Mercy as the "common point" between Christians and Muslims.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of people gathered on Monday at the Collège Notre-Dame de Jamhour (Beirut) for the annual interfaith ceremony held on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.
Participants celebrated diversity, including disability, as an invaluable element of beauty and enrichment, and condemned the violence and suffering caused by extremism and terrorism in Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The solemnity marks the moment when the Archangel Gabriel revealed to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus, the Saviour. Six years ago, the Lebanese government declared the day a shared Christian-Muslim national holiday, and it has been celebrated as such ever since.
Some 30 associations, congregations and groups sponsored the interfaith meeting, Lebanese French language daily L'Orient-Le Jour reported. Leading Lebanese and people from other parts of the Arab world took part in the event.
Speaking on behalf of the Lebanon’s chief Mufti, the Mufti of Sidon Salim Soussan stressed moderation and rejected extremism and terrorism as a choice for Lebanese Muslims as well as other Lebanese. Equally, he expressed hope for a "strong and fair" state.
Nagy Khoury, a former student leader in Lebanon’s Catholic schools and current secretary general of Christian-Muslim meeting, said, "The world's beauty lies in its diversity." In such diversity, there are also "physical differences", in particular disabilities because, "each handicap bears a message, and each message has a priceless human value".
Stressing this year’s theme, unity in diversity with people who live with a handicap, he called on participants to observe a minute of silence "for the victims of hatred and terrorism" in Turkey, Belgium, France, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc.
Shaikh Mohammad Nokkari, a leading Lebanese Sunni, shared a personal experience he had last summer with those present.
On 15 last August 2015, feast day of the Assumption, he was at the Madonetta Shrine in Genoa, for the feast day celebration.
As unusual as the presence of an imam in a Christian place of worship may be, his address was about Mary. Speaking at length, he also offered an “embrace of peace between Islam and Christianity”.
“I did not realise,” he explained, “that so many faithful would come from all over Italy" to join in “Islamic-Christian prayers" for Our Lady.
“None of this,” he noted, “would have been possible if we, in Lebanon, had not made the feast day of the Annunciation a world celebration across cultures and oceans.”
In fact, in the last week, interfaith ceremonies dedicated to Mary have been held across Lebanon, bringing together Christians and Muslims.
In Jamhour, Collège Notre-Dame dean Fr Charbel Batour took part in one such ceremony. In his address, he focused on the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Francis, saying that mercy is precisely the "common point" around which Christians and Muslims can reconnect.
At the college, the highlights of this year’s ceremony included an address by a ten-year-old Muslim girl named Mariam Adra, from Tripoli, who spoke about the beauty of bearing the name Mary, and said that she was personally close to the Virgin.