Experience by George and Lara, from Lebanon
We are George and Lara and we come from Lebanon. We thank you for this opportunity to speak.
As you know, the Middle East is living one of the worst pages of the history of mankind. In front of such horror, the outstanding example of people sentenced to death because they refuse to renounce their religion, they pray for their persecutors and they forgive these massacres before their death, as it was for the twenty-one Copts killed in Libya during the events of last February; that challenges us deeply, both Christians and Muslims living in these countries. It reminds us of the greatness of love, forgiveness, which one day will change the face of the Earth.
The war in Syria has killed more than 6.5 million refugees in their own country and 3 million who have fled from their homeland to go to neighboring countries: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa.
Demonstrations and campaigns throughout the Middle East are hundreds, to raise money and goods of all kinds and to witness together, Christians and Muslims, that unity is possible and that the political barriers can never extinguish the aspirations of men to live in peace with one another. Concerts for Peace, Christmas holidays, evenings of prayer held in the Holy Land, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, which have witnessed a mosaic of people of different religions, cultures and social level, have transformed the feelings of fear, hatred and revenge into forgiveness, hope and peace. So our different identities have proved capable to dialogue in the greatest harmony. We had already experienced this experience with our Muslim friends in Lebanon, Jordan and Algeria. Together we share the human values that elevate man to the highest level of love and fraternity.
In different places, especially in Jordan, even in our own homes and with the few resources we have, we are ready to accomodate the Iraqi refugee families, we discover that they are our brothers and sisters. We share with them hunger, shame, humiliation, loss of loved ones and we enrich of the hidden treasures behind the suffering.
I have always asked myself about these words of Jesus reported in the Gospel: "...I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was a stranger and you welcomed me into your house, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me!" With so many friends, we have experienced and we firmly believe that violence will not have the last word. Even if it is able to destroy the city and to kill people, it will never put an end to man and the power of love that dwells in him. In front of hatred, as Chiara Lubich says, an act of love is able to stop the hand of a terrorist.
Examples from Syria, among many others, have reaffirmed to us that love conquers everything, even where it seems impossible.
It's the case of a Syrian family who lost two of his children aged 3 and 9 years old. They were happy to finally play in the open air on the balcony, taking advantage of a so-called cease-fire, when a missile hit their bodies. In front of the drama and the pain of their parents, the present love of the community of Focolari, and the daily sharing of this suffering, try to heal this deep wound and give meaning to their existence.
Another dramatic event happened to a married man waiting for a child, who together with his brother has been proposed as a volunteer to ensure the safety of their neighborhoods abandoned to criminals. The armed groups, not happy with their presence, have kidnapped them for two months before to give them back to their families, killed, cut into pieces. Once again, the love of the living Christian community around these families could offer a bit of consolation. These same people say that the power of love helps them to accept this tragic pain and to gradually overcome their dramas.
One of our friends, that wanted to reach us, was stopped at the border and for a mistake found himself in the darkness of a prison. With prayer and trust in God as the only weapon, he decided to set aside his sentence, to offer the other prisoners a smile, listening, advice, and even the little food he had. He wanted to witness the love of God in this place so dark. In front of his surprising attitude, also the other prisoners were placed at this disposal of love and mutual aid. And then a few days after he was released from prison after the authorities recognize that there have been a mistake. A quite exceptional fact in the situation in which we live.