May 14 prayer responds Lebanon’s historical vocation
by Fady Noun

The country sees it as an opportunity to demonstrate that it is truly the environment par excellence in which the cultural and ethical future of the Arab world and that of interreligious dialogue are elaborated.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - After the Pope, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have accepted the invitation of the High Committee for Human Brotherhood to fast, pray and perform acts of mercy on Thursday 14 May for the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. These adhesions give this appeal an ecumenical, interreligious and global ethical dimension. Even non-believers, in fact, will be able to associate themselves with this moment of communion for all humanity.

In Lebanon, 17 Christian and Muslim institutions have joined the appeal, like the Maronite Church. On Friday, the Maronite patriarch Béchara Raï sent a letter to the bishops and superiors general of his community, asking them to respond positively in their ceremonies to the approach already adopted by the grassroots organizations.

If there are good universal reasons for accepting this appeal, Lebanon has a special one. Indeed, it responds to its historical vocation and the common appeal of the Pope and the great imam of al-Azhar challenges it to answer the call. Therefore, once again, Lebanon is offered the opportunity to demonstrate that it is truly the environment par excellence in which the cultural and ethical future of the Arab world and that of interreligious dialogue are elaborated.

Of course, Abu Dhabi, where the High Committee was created (pictured) (February 2019), represented a decisive step in this significant Islamic-Christian process and Lebanon should be gladdened by this. Human fraternity should not be an empty word left to Spain's revolutionaries and lodges. It is also Christian and Muslim, and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in Lebanon.

Some fear that the Church, in doing so, will be deceived by a conquering Islam in disguise, or that it will fall into a vague humanism in which the name of Jesus will be confused with those of other spiritual teachers, in a sort of "World Religion" where in the name of tolerance the truth of Christianity will be diluted. But it is enough to follow some morning homilies of Pope Francis to see with what intelligence of the Scriptures and with what constancy he proclaims the word and lordship of Jesus. This should reassure those who continue to believe that the prayers recited by Muslims and Christians, each according to his faith, but with a common intention, are only mutual deception or, at best, folklore.

But, let us repeat it, there is yet another reason, political and cyclical, this time, to strongly adhere to the appeal of the High Committee. It is that it comes a week after May 7, a painful date in the memory of the Sunni community. However, civil unconsciousness is such in Lebanon that on Twitter that day some fueled the fire and sang the glory of this Hezbollah coup (2008), which militarily and politically humiliated the Sunni Way. In addition, the invitation came at a time when Saad Hariri, envious for leadership and filled with confessional sentiment, is relentless in his claim that the government of Hassane Diab, which has become his rival, is Hezbollah.

In the face of the dynamic of division, hatred and latent violence that are emerging, it would have been irresponsible to let this rare opportunity pass to fight positively this national neglect close to disintegration and this closure in itself of a Sunni community that has been defensive and believed itself persecuted. It is an opportunity to strengthen Lebanon in its fraternal community, the same that made the masses tremble on October 17. It was necessary at all costs to preserve this result against the regressions towards sectarianism that sometimes manifests itself, either because of a retrograde religious utopia, of an ignorant "reconquista", as recently in the Chouf, or a coup d'état, as in Lassa or in the Jbeil Jurd.

We must therefore consider the prayer gathering of 14 May as an event, despite the sad political climate of the great Sunni institution Makassed, the educational and social backbone of Dar el-Fatwa, and of two main Shiite institutions, the Forum for the meeting of the religions of the Sheikh Ali Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah and the institutions of Imam Moussa Sadr. This is a ferment of fraternity that cannot be overlooked, even if as we know, the yeast activates first in the secret of hiding and in the silence of the dough.

In the name of a "culture of encounter" which Lebanon ensures is its own, we must defend this "Thursday of unity in responsible prayer and spiritual solidarity" at all costs, in everyone's legitimate right to differentiate on the basis of their faith. After all, it is precisely at this level that all the Lebanese people find themselves.