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Marist Bulletin - Number 256


Middle East conflict

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War of religions? - Marist Blog - Br. Emili Turú
At the time that I am writing these lines, the newspapers have announced as front page news that Israel is continuing to bombard Lebanon and that Hezbollah, who says it is ready for an “open war” with Israel, is ready to advance its military response “beyond Haïfa” and that it has sent a pilot-less plane full of explosives against an Israeli boat.
In contrast, news on the front page of the website of the Marist Institute informs us that seventeen brothers from five continents will soon commence their preparation to depart on mission for very different countries from their places of origin.
Some analysts describe the current moment as that of the shock of civilisations or of a war of religions… The offer and the availability of our brothers remind us that another world is possible and that, for that, we need another pathway. It is certainly not the bombs that will bring peace to the world. In effect, it is possible, even better, it is indispensable to take the pathway of coming together, of mutual awareness, of dialogue, of respect, etc. The three expressions of Hans Kung in inaugurating his magnificent monographs on Judaism, Christianity and Islam are well known: “No peace between nations without peace between religions. No peace between religions without dialogue between religions. No dialogue between religions without fundamental searching at the interior of religions.”
These simple lines would like to pay homage to Marists, brothers and lay, who, in different countries in the world, promote in a discreet but very effective way the dialogue between religions. I am thinking especially of the countries where Christians are in the minority. I am thinking today of the Near East: Lebanon and Syria. The Marist presence in these countries has always been a school of welcome, understanding and of peace; against fanaticism, education; against war, education; against ignorance, education.
Marist friends of the Near East, we are proud to know that your presence represents us all. We know that at this time of conflict you will continue to promote the great values that characterise you. Count on our memory and our appreciation. We are praying with you and for you, and for your people who are suffering.

Message from the Faraya House in difficult times
Faraya is a pleasant place situated in the Christian zone about thirty-five kilometres to the northeast of Beirut, capitale of Lebanon, at the foot of Mount Misar. Its altitude of 1250 metres above sea level assures splendid views of the mountains and the valleys.
At the present time, the country is plunged in a profound sadness while persons of good will are seeing their efforts to assure a future of peace, of prosperity and of hope for the younger generations bordering once more on failure.
The material deterioration of the country such as the destruction of infrastructures, means of communication, etc. is worrying. It becomes unbearable to be the powerless witness of ominous consequences of political decisions that have put in place leaders who follow their own partisan and sectarian interests. The people remain vulnerable in this devastating game of interests and fears.
In this atmosphere of national sadness and of contained rage, there is a new experience in the Marist Lebanese milieu. It concerns a ten-day study session of the document “In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat – A Vision for Marist Education Today”.
This meeting was carefully prepared for several months after an exchange with the Council of the Province of Mediterránea. Brother Onorino Rota, one of the members of the animation team of the session, had already been blocked in Italy from coming as well as Brother Mario Meuti. Brothers Santiago Fernández and Teófilo Minga had just arrived in the country.
No teacher has missed the meeting; even the one who could not arrive the first day for family reasons arrived after the Sunday rest day. Brothers Emilio Alastuey and José María Romero are also animating the session.
Because of the special circumstances of the country, we have received and we are still receiving many messages, knowing that you carry us in your hearts and your prayers. We thank you most sincerely for that.
Dear brothers, who are concerned for us and who follow the news everyday, be reassured! We are in a secure zone where there are no structures that could be taken as “military targets” whose proximity could put us in danger.
We are following faithfully the anticipated plan until the end of the 23rd July. This was not just the decision of the animation team, of Brother Georges Trad, delegate of the Brother Provincial in Lebanon, or of Brother José Remiro, inspirer and animator of the meeting, BUT the decision of each one of the participants, brothers and laypeople. It is the first time that the teachers of the colleges of Champville and of Byblos have come together and some do not even know each other. They have created a group for work, for friendship, for exchange of experiences and of life which has proved to be surprising and admirable. We are not going to renounce this richness. We are not going to waste this occasion of continuing to continue to deepen our charism, our identity and our mission. We are doing so with joy, in an atmosphere of study and of serious work and with a very befitting serenity if you take into account the circumstances. In the morning, we pray at the start of our work and we close the day with Mass. There is neither fear nor trouble. Our confidence is in the Lord and the Good Mother who maintains our morale at a high level. We are helped in that by knowing that our brothers of Jbeil, of Amchit and of Champville are in a secure region.
We will not be careless. If the circumstances get worse and put our lives in danger, we would suspend the session. But that is not the case at present and with the help of the Good Mother we will maintain the joy we are feeling in allowing us to delve into the richness of our Marist documents.
Brothers, you who read this message, wherever you are, we thank you and we ask you not to dramatise our situation too much. For us, the real drama is the one that innocent people of this country are experiencing and we entrust them to the Lord.

Letter from Br. José María Romero
Dear parents, Marist Brothers and friends, I am writing to you to give you some news of this country as well as news of our brothers and teachers of our college as several among you have written to us to be informed of our situation.
Firstly, I want to say that we are well and calm in a house in the mountains, where we are not in any danger. Today I went to the college at Champville from where I am writing to you to reassure you despite a worrying situation.
In order to understand the situation you must take into account that Lebanon is a country governed in a particular way. During recent years, the party of Hezbollah (Muslim) created to combat Israel, had the authorisation to be armed: a particular army in one nation. This party declared war on Israel without the approval or opposition of the central government, and hence the bombardments that you have seen on television. The situation is serious because all the roads have been cut and it is difficult to leave or enter the country, but Israel makes the difference between the Hezbollah and the others and it attacks the places where the Muslims are numerous. We are in the centre of the country, the zone inhabited by the Christians and up till the present moment the zone has been respected by Israel. Nevertheless, the roads and the airports are inaccessible to prevent the Muslims being in contact with Syria, a country that protects them.
The brothers who came to the session and those who were thinking of going on holidays or to the Provincial Chapter are finding it difficult to leave Lebanon and must wait for the situation to be more secure. For the moment, the airports are closed and in front of our house we can see many boats on the sea that are encircled by Israel to prevent them from reaching the port.
I am describing the situation as a foreigner and I have left out many details. I would like, however, to make sure that you realise that even though the situation is serious we are not in any danger at the moment because our colleges are situated in the Christian zone. I say “at the moment” for the situation changes and becomes more complicated each day.
I left the session that we are having in the mountains to come to write this letter and to reassure you. Please communicate this news to all those who would be interested.
I am continuing to sleep well, even though I am profoundly touched by the suffering of those around me. You have to see the strength of spirit of these people who have already experienced a long civil war.
Please pray for peace in this agitated region!

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