A Proposal for a “Lebanon Unity Day” in Late 2023
The following is a draft text that our Friends of Lebanon team has collaborated on regarding an event to help promote unity in Lebanon, while at the same time gathering support for the Christian community there to “sit and wait and live,” so that they can outlast this crisis and have hope for the future.
This is a modest proposal and we publish it here simply so that you, our readers, may share it with others and begin discussing this issue — of how, precisely, to help the people of this proud country, and of these ancient and still-vibrant communities, to survive.
We plan to share this proposal with officials in the Vatican and in the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké, Lebanon.
A Day of Unity For Lebanon
By the Unitas Initiative
of Urbi et Orbi Communications
March 4, 2023
Lebanon is the land where Christ walked, where St. Charbel worked miracles, and where the Maronites carved their monasteries into the walls of the Holy Valley. It is also the land of Hezbollah, of the fifteen-year Civil War, of intrigues and struggles between the great powers of the world. Over their long history, the Lebanese people have suffered, fought for autonomy, grown wealthy, fought again, and suffered again. The suffering has been so great that Lebanon as we know it should have crumbled —should have ended — a long time ago. Yet something is still holding it together.
We believe that this “something” is faith — faith the size of a mustard seed, which believes and perseveres in spite of all obstacles. Throughout an unprecedented economic collapse, the wars fought on and within its borders, the destruction of the capital in a tragic, incomprehensible explosion, the faith of Lebanon and of the Lebanese people has not died. And, we believe, now is the time to begin to add “works” to this faith: to begin, after so many years and such great suffering, to once again turn the tide towards peace, charity, and unity.
Our proposal for achieving this is modest: create a space for dialogue, and for prayer. Our goals are spiritual: namely, that Lebanon becomes once again the “message of peace” spoken of by Pope John Paul II, through the intercession of St. Charbel.
In this mission, we have the support of the Friends of St. Charbel, and other devotees of this great saint. But our goals are also, of necessity, political: for Lebanon’s gridlocked Parliament to elect a sitting President, for a fair and impartial investigation of the Beirut Port explosion of August 2020 to go forward, for the tenets of the Taif Agreement of 1989 to be fully implemented. These political issues must be discussed because, without certain basic steps in the right direction, Lebanon will remain unlivable for the Lebanese people.
A first step to opening this space for dialogue could be a small conference, sponsored by the Vatican, to be held later this year (2023) in Beirut or Harissa, Lebanon. Such a conference would not need to be a massive undertaking: if representatives of several communities were invited, a day could be spent in prayer, allowing for organic “encounters” to take place between participants, and a following (and final day) could be centered on outlining a “vision for Lebanon.” The outcome could be a statement on some of the major questions — concrete support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, an international “Fund for Lebanon’s Future,” coexistence between the country’s many faiths — which all participants could agree on.
In this limited way, those who will shape Lebanon’s future could begin to talk, to share a meal, to express a hope, a message, a promise.
Perhaps they could begin to recommit to the “message of peace,” taking inspiration from the Psalm of David which references Lebanon’s own Mount Hermon: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
Please consider the many miracles and the many blessings that could begin to unfold from such an event. We hope to have your support in moving forward with this proposal. We call upon St. Charbel and place our request under the protecting mantle of our Lady of Lebanon.
—Unitas Initiative, Urbi et Orbi Communications, March 4, 2023