It is estimated that more than 900,000 Lebanese have been displaced within Lebanon by the recent conflict. More than half a million have fled to mountain areas, with about one third sheltering in schools and public buildings and the rest finding temporary homes with host families.
The U.N. refugee agency reports that displaced people are living in difficult circumstances. For example, in one school housing 400 people there’s only one bathroom for women. This makes it tough for people who are already traumatized, anxious and angry.
Hameed and Ali are two of these displaced. They live now at J. L. Schneller Institute in West Beqaa, Lebanon.
Hameed comes from the south of West Beqaa area. He is over 100 years old and has experienced three displacements in his life. All were due to Israeli invasions on Lebanon–in 1982, 1996 and 2006.
His grandson, 3-year-old Ali, is experiencing his first displacement now.
In each displacement Hameed was always hopeful and determined to go back to his olive orchard, his home and his land.
Listening to Hameed, Ali is unable to comprehend all that his grandfather is saying about his determination to return, his love for the soil of his land or his desire to take revenge of those who made thousands leave the comfort of their home. Not to mention his dismay with the world’s politicians, who are watching the destruction of homes and the massacres of civilians without making a serious move.
All Ali understands is that he is away from his toys, his friends and his school. He also feels that being away from home is a result of war and violence.
As an Arab evangelical minister of the gospel and theological educator, I have always believed in and worked for peace education and tolerance among my own people. The tragedy Lebanon is currently experiencing will affect negatively that message of peace and reconciliation.
In Arab eyes, Western nations like the U.S., U.K., Netherlands and Germany are viewed as “Christian” nations. There is no such thing as separation between state and religion in popular Arab mind.
These nations are reluctant to have a cease-fire. By doing this they expand the killing of civilians and increase the human tragedy of the displaced.
How on earth will Arab evangelicals be able to continue presenting the message of peace to their fellows? How on earth will Western Christians, who insist on the continuation of the recent war, be able to show that they are followers of the Prince of Peace?
I am glad to see Hameed transferring the legacy of displacement to Ali by insisting on his love to the land. But what about his hatred and vengeance? What kind of legacy do we help transfer to Ali and others?
Unfortunately, many nations and individuals believe that the use of military power will get rid of “terrorism” and pave the way for a lasting peace. This is a simplistic, superficial and useless approach to the problem. Such an approach will surely generate more hatred and produce more “terrorists.” Take a look at what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza and Lebanon. This is not the way to conduct a “war on terrorism.”
There is a better way. It addresses and solves the root of the problems. It is a way determined to engage in viable talks and serious negotiations, and a way that cares for just peace.
It is the way exemplified by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Riad Kassis is executive director and chaplain at J. L. Schneller Institute in West Beqaa, Lebanon, and lecturer in Old Testament studies at ear East School of Theology in Beirut.