Samstag, 19. August 2006

The Sorrow of Survival

Dr. Riad schrieb mir diese Reflektion in der Hoffnung, dass es die Letzte zu diesem Krieg sei...

The Krehs are a dear German family that lived and served with us for three years told me that people congratulate them on returning on time from Lebanon before the start of the war. Although this family is thankful now to be safe in Germany, they felt much deep sorrow for watching the news of destroyed Lebanon and wondering what has happened to the roads and scenery they once enjoyed in Tyre and other parts of the country.

In the eve of August 13, eight air strikes were heard so close to our house. More than 2000 Christians were fleeing from Marjayoun, a southern town. Although the convoy had allegedly a “special permission” and was under surveillance since it left Marjayoun it was assaulted for an unknown reason as it approached Kefraya junction (2kms from us). One of our staff, Radwan, was among the courageous Red Cross aides who rushed to the scene. At least 7 were killed (one of them is a Red Cross volunteer and the Christian wife of Marjayoun’s mayor) and more than 40 injured. People began to run with their children and to drive their cars crazy. Another real massacre, just several hours away from the deadline to the “cessation of hostilities”!

August 14, 2006 was such a great day! It was the first time to wake up for the last 34 days to hear the birds singing rather than jet fighters crossing the clear blue Lebanese sky. I felt as if I was born anew. I could not believe that the “cessation of hostilities” scheduled to be effective at 08.00 am is really taking place! As I walked out I felt the trees greener, the air fresher, and the sun brighter. The people I met were shaking hands, kissing one another, and saying hamdillah alalsalamatika (Praise God for your safety!). During the day I was thankful to God for the joy of survival, but I began to think about the sorrow of survival that many will be experiencing today.

At 07.45 am, just 15 minutes prior to the deadline for “cessation of hostilities”, a public car was struck from the air and five Lebanese policemen and two civilians were killed. The families of these dead were surely experiencing the sorrow of survival wishing that the travel of their sons was delayed for at least 15 minutes!

On August 6 David Grossman, one of Israel’s most prominent writers and peace activists, wrote a public letter calling for Israel to accept a mutual cease-fire with the Lebanese. However, on August 12 news reached David that his own 21 year-old son, Uri, was one of the causalities of the war! Had the cease-fire been effective several days earlier, Uri and his family would have experienced the joy of survival instead of experiencing now, without Uri, the sorrow of survival.

Yesterday I visited with my son and daughter the southern suburb of Beirut. I have seen images of the destruction on TV, but to be there is quite a different experience. It is such a shocking experience to smell the odor of gun powder, to have the dust of rubble covering your whole body, and to walk on smashed glass is something different. It is such an experience to see the interior of hundreds of apartments being shattered; mattresses, personal belongings, toys, books. All were in heaps of wreckage. I wondered how those who returned home to find their beloved ones still under the rubble would have experienced the joy of survival. I wondered how the families of more than 1,300 Lebanese civilians are able to find comfort in their own survival. I wondered how those who knew that their homes and belongings had been wiped out are able to experience the joy of survival.

In the first days of the war I wrote an article for Christianity Today ( entitled: “The Silent Human Conscience: What should I tell my daughter when bombs fall and the great nations say nothing?” Finally the human conscience has been shyly awakened! Hopefully the “cessation of hostilities” will evolve into a permanent “cease-fire” in the near future. I am still unable to comprehend why it took so long to reach a UN Security Council resolution! How many of these dead on both sides of the conflict would have survived if an immediate ceasefire took place? Sadly it seems to me that Dr. K. Makdisi, Professor of International Relations in the Dept of Political Studies at the American University of Beirut, was right to say: “America and Europe can congratulate themselves not only on the total destruction of a country, but on the de-legitimization of the international legal order (UN Security council).” Are the individuals and nations who insisted on the continuation of the terrible war and those who took so long to reach an agreement for “cessation of hostilities” feeling the joy or the sorrow of survival?

The Revd Riad Kassis, PhD
Executive Director & Chaplain at J. L. Schneller Institute, West Beqaa, Lebanon
Lecturer in Old Testament studies, Near East School of Theology, Beirut, Lebanon

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