Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wadiaa Khoury (Photo: Rob Lancaster)Before the 2011 Arab Spring, another Arab country - Lebanon - went through similar upheavals. Wadiaa Khoury looks at the lessons from this experience and asks whether the current choices being faced by Arabs are grounded in truth or half-truths.

When the Arab spring starts in Beirut, it will herald the blooming of roses in Damascus.’ These are the words of Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was assassinated in 2005 at the peak of the long and painful Lebanese struggle for freedom from Syrian domination. His words were later seen as prophetic when in April 2005 40,000 Syrian army troops were forced to leave Lebanon under pressure from the international community (following UN resolution 1559) and the overwhelming cries for freedom by the Lebanese, especially the youth, in an uprising known as the ‘Cedars Revolution’. For all those who believe that the Arab Spring first blossomed in Tunisia, it is important to point out this Lebanese experience. I don’t write this out of pride, but as a humble invitation to draw lessons from our seven-years-old experience.

The well-known Lebanese author Amin Maalouf once said that Lebanon is like a wild rose. He explained that just as roses are usually planted around vineyards as a warning system because they are the first to show any signs of sickness which may threaten the grapes; so is Lebanon a warning indicator for the rest of the Middle East and world. Whatever happens to Lebanon, happens sooner or later to all the other countries: whether it is achieving freedom, terrorist attacks or even wars. Therefore, Maalouf suggests, the world should pay careful attention to Lebanon. ‘Whatever you see and whatever you do here, you’ll have to face sooner or later within your own borders…’

With tensions rising so rapidly nowadays, it is an urgent matter to anticipate world interest in the lessons of Lebanon by showing them as clearly as possible. There are too many half-truths circulating, making it intolerable to passively stand by.

Today, every Arab is being forced to answer the same question: Whose side are you on? Do you want to uphold security and order by supporting the despised ruling regimes? Or would you rather support those seeking to overthrow the regimes for the sake of social justice, no matter how much blood would be shed?

Today, Arabs are deeply divided by these apparently opposite camps. Arabs are irrationally falling for the half-truths and distortions of one side over the other, while in truth it is hard to be fully for either of them, as they are expressed above.

Yet, Lebanon was forced to undergo the first, and then to live through the second, with all the horrors that go along with them. Between 1975 and 2005, and then again between 2005 and 2008, Lebanon experienced occupation of its territory, foreign and civil wars, domination by a dictatorship, political assassinations, foreign interference, Israel’s brutality and tyranny, Islamist terrorist attacks, brutal confrontations between Sunni and Shiite, the marginalization of Christians, exploitation of natural resources, the reign of impunity…

Out of these horrific years, which human minds and nerves were not designed to bear, a supernatural vision was born in the hearts and minds of those who were humble enough to understand that Truth transcends all. Those who now seek, not to know who is right, but what is right.

The Truth is that we struggle in vain when we define evil as belonging exclusively to one regime or group. In vain we fight our wars against any kind of enemies made of flesh and blood. In vain we seek salvation and freedom through external revolutions and turbulence… All is in vain, if we don’t fight evil and seek freedom within ourselves!

Within us, there are dictators, occupied territories, wars, divisions, marginalization, tyranny, exploited resources. The outer dictators etc can only draw their strength and be sustained to the extent that the inner ones dominate. Only people liberated from within know how to satisfy the deepest longings of souls thirsty for freedom.

So far, every public speech I have heard related to the Arab uprising expresses the thirsts of one group of people and disregards those of the other groups; emphasizing the fears and frustrations of one community and denying the dangers which could lead to the extermination of another. I haven’t heard any speech or plan designed to acknowledge a better future which suits all, in the unity of their human nature.

There is much chaos, materialism, insane rage and lack of humanity is today’s quest for freedom. Isn’t it legitimate to ask: why aren’t the perspectives of order and security being brought up before the fall of regimes? Why do we practically have to choose between order and social justice instead of aiming for both? Why isn’t the restoration of Humanity a priority in these revolutions?

Wadiaa Khoury was born in Zahle, Lebanon. She studied educational sciences at Saint-Joseph University in Beirut before taking part in Action for Life, a 10 month IofC leadership training programme in Asia. Since then, she has worked as the Community Service Coordinator at the International College in Beirut. While working, she has continued her studies, completing a Bachelor’s in Law and a Master’s in Public Law. She has a keen interest in building trust across the world's divides, particularly for religious and cultural dialogue. Wadiaa enjoys taking long drives to reflect on life, the quiet solitude of walking in nature and working and having conversations deep into the night.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

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