09/27/2021, 13.31
LEBANON
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From Jbeil to Annaya, thousands in procession for Lebanon’s redemption

by Fady Noun

A series of "small miracles" led to a march that brought together Christians and Muslims. A 38-year-old Christian woman launched the idea a few months ago on a social media, generating growing support. The event ended with a Mass at the monastery of St Charbel. A Shia from Jbeil donated banners and flags.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lara Noun, 38, can't believe it. Wife of a lawyer from Michmich (Jbeil) and mother of four, the young woman heads the communication department at the Ministry of Finance. She is still astonished by the extraordinary success of a procession that brought a group of people humiliated by politics, crushed by the high cost of living, to travel in prayer for some six hours and 16 kilometres between Jbeil and the Annaya monastery.

She admits that the event began modestly last July with a Facebook post that went viral. As she put it, she candidly spoke her mind about Lebanon’s days of misfortune, noting that “the road between Jbeil and Annaya can be done without petrol, that the check-in at the monastery is free, and that the blessings that one could take home were also free.”

Still, she would never have believed that what she imagined would become reality. In August, the wife of a Tripoli man touched by the grace of the intercession of Saint Charbel asked her by the phone when the "procession" she had announced would take place.

For Lara Noun, something got lost in the communication. She had used the term "massira", which means "procession” in Arabic, as a figure of speech for a “journey of prayer” for Lebanon’s recovery. However, over a few days, a call for an exclusively “national, religious and unifying” procession between Jbeil and Annaya was launched on Facebook.

“I didn't sleep the night the appeal was posted,” Lara Noun says. “The phone rang non-stop. Support was pouring in. In the days that followed, with the agreement of Father Tannous Nehmé, the superior of the monastery of Annaya, and the municipality of Jbeil, a committee was set up to organise the procession: meeting points, transport, banners, candles, Lebanese flags, pictures of Saint Charbel, road logistics, media coverage, water stops. The date of 25 September was picked for the sake of convenience. 

“Everything fell into place as if by magic; no one owes me anything, I'm a very ordinary woman," Lara Noun explains. She got support from all over Lebanon, as well as the diaspora: the United States, Australia, South Africa, Bahrain, Jordan, Spain, Sweden, etc.

A Shia who "owes a lot" to Saint Charbel

On Sunday, the result included dozens of buses coming from all over Lebanon, including Zahle, Tripoli, and the southern border area, Ain Ebel and Debel. According to organisers, thousand of people came, including veiled Muslim women, for the procession. Two businessmen and a former mayor of Jbeil paid for the buses, the organisers said.

Some 300 Maronite scouts served as stewards, while personnel from the Red Cross, Civil Defence and the Jbeil municipal police were deployed.

Lara Noun is particularly proud of the banners that filled the road, a gift from Nidal Hamadé, a Shia from Jbeil, a man who, after they got in touch, told her that “he owes a lot to Saint Charbel”.

“The road to Jbeil united what was divided,” she said. Was it a miracle? No, but a series of “little miracles” that followed each other to create from almost nothing a procession of several thousand people, the organisers said. 

On the road to Annaya, the procession moved at the walkers’ speed. It was only around dusk that they reached the monastery. Father Louis Matar, guardian of the memory of the miracles attributed to Saint Charbel, celebrated the Mass that marked the end of the day.

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