My Christian friend & my book

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Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of friends in Beirut during a symposium related to my book, ‘The Secret of Lebanon through Kuwaiti eyes.’

The event featured speeches by politician and economist Nizar Younis, Father George Hobeika, the honorable President of the University of Kaslik, and literary novelist Omar Saeed.

The symposium, skillfully moderated by Justice Professor Yousef Bishara, drew a relatively large crowd despite the challenging circumstances in Lebanon. Attendees navigated the difficulties of traveling on less crowded, more arduous, and slower roads — a reality shaped by various well-known reasons.

The journey has transformed into an odyssey, and the pervasive fear is that the situation may erupt at any moment, making it crucial for everyone to be cautious about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Among the audience, as usual, was Ms. Ilham Helou, a prominent figure known as “the writer of closed drawers.” She earned this moniker because she meticulously stores everything she intends to write in the drawers of her desk, maintaining a refined style but refusing to publish her work.

In an email received after my return from Beirut, Ms. Helou expressed that our meeting was significant, both due to its rarity and the intellectual and mental enjoyment it provided. She identified herself as a Maronite, emphasizing her identity as a free human being first.

Ms. Helou shared her perspective on my book, which delves into the role of Christians in Lebanon, noting that Christians, often unintentionally, are raised with a more flexible upbringing, characterized by a higher level of freedom. In contrast to some who tend to suppress opinions and conceal feelings to evade rebuke, she observed that Christians have room for expressing criticism of prevailing or traditional norms. According to her, this flexibility allows them to innovate, make mistakes, and learn valuable lessons in life.

Ms. Helou pointed out that the upbringing of individuals from different religious backgrounds influences their behavior, especially in expressing feelings or opinions.

She suggested that individuals from her community tend to be cautious, quick to agree with others’ opinions, and hesitant to express dissent. In contrast, she highlighted the openness within her community to discuss and challenge religious practices or beliefs without fear of ridicule or blasphemy. She credited this to the more lenient nature of religious authority, which adapts to the changing lifestyles and values of the era.

According to Ms. Helou, the continuous review and discussion within the Christian community safeguard faith from stagnation and the imposition of rigid interpretations. While the committed may find these positions challenging, they have become integral to Christian religious thought, influenced by the West’s history, the Age of Enlightenment, revolutions, and secularism.

Religious authorities have abandoned strictness and military-like discipline in favor of freedom of expression, discussion, and research.

Ms. Helou acknowledged that the ideals and values attributed to Christians are sometimes incorrect, emphasizing that individual behavior outside one’s homeland differs from behavior within it. She concluded that, in the end, everyone, regardless of their religious background, is a sinful human being.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Helou emphasized the importance of choosing the right school for children, one that aligns with a balanced educational policy between oppression and freedom, fanaticism and acceptance of others.

e-mail: [email protected]

By Ahmad alsarraf

This news has been read 818 times!

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