Author: SandraLangston

Muslim and Christian Youth in Lebanon Preach the God of Peace

This blogpost is an extract of an article published by World Vision on their website, and copied with permission. You can view the original article here. All photos are taken by Christian Ghafary.

In Hadat, the busy and diverse Caza of Mount Lebanon, Fatmeh and Alaa, two veiled ladies walk into the church with Bchara, who is wearing the cross around his neck.  Inside, Bchara starts to point at various elements of the church and explain them to the women.

The eyes of Alaa, 18, are bursting with desire for learning. She maintains continuous eye contact with Bchara, a sign of active listening. Fatmeh, 18, too has many questions. With a friendly flicker in his eyes, Bchara answers: “By creating us, God put something from him in each and every one of us. If we do not meet and know each other, we cannot reach God”, he says.

The discussion inside is accompanied by another outside the church between other members of the group; Mohamad, 17 and Jean Paul, 14. In his explanation, Jean Paul is pointing to his chest and the cross: “The cross represents the pain which Jesus went through for the sake of his children. We believe that Jesus did that for all of us.” The conversation ends with a friendly embrace. Before leaving, Mohamad says: “The differences in our religions will never separate us.” Afterwards, each group got taxi’s home to their own communities in different parts of Beirut.

This was September 22, 2015, after a good-bye meeting these youth held as part of “The Feast”, an inter-faith project run by World Vision Lebanon (WVL) in partnership with the Institute of Middle East Studies and Lebanon Youth for Christ. The idea for this initiative in Lebanon is fully inspired by The Feast, an international NGO that supports work in numerous countries enabling young people of different faiths to form real friendships, grow in their understanding of each other’s and their own faiths and become peace-makers amongst their peers, their own communities and in the wider world.

“When learning about the Feast, we thought that the youth of Lebanon are in need of such  dialogue, and so we developed the Feast in Lebanon in 2013”, says Fady Hajj, Faith and Development Coordinator at WVL. After its success, WVL [with IMES and LYfC] decided to extend the Feast this year while widening the scope by targeting more faith groups. “This year we gathered four religious groups: Muslim Shiites, Muslim Sunnis, Christian Maronites, and Christian Evangelicals, and for the next years we aim for an even wider reach”, explains Hajj.

The inter-faith discussions and activities started in February 2015 and lasted until September 22, 2015, the last day, where the youth met with World Vision Lebanon’s team, in a meeting room in the church of Hadat, to evaluate their eight-month journey.

You can view the full article here. If you have any questions about anything in this article, do get in contact.

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Lebanon Calling…

The Feast is going strong in Lebanon. Faith is being discussed, friendships deepened and lives changed. Working with a slightly different approach, the same young people [about 32 on average] meet together every two weeks for an evening of discussion, challenge, fun and of course food. As with any Feast gathering, food is a critical component, and those of you who know anything about Lebanese cuisine, can imagine what a highlight this is!!

The young people, all from the Beirut area of Lebanon, represent four distinct faith communities. Each community is represented by an existing youth group. The expectation is that, as a group, they will further influence their own communities. At each meeting we have Sunni and Shiite Muslim, along with Maronite and Evangelical young people.

A couple of weeks ago we all went bowling and then had dinner together – we filled the entire (!) restaurant, which was fun [and noisy!]. The young people are always keen to talk about faith and religion. At times discussions have got a little heated, but given the part of the world in which we live that is not surprising – and the Guidelines for Dialogue are always there to help. The young people are really engaged in what they are doing and look forward to the next gathering.

The month of Ramadan provides a great opportunity for us. Within the next few weeks we will be visiting the communities of the different youth groups participating in The Feast Lebanon. Each group will host a Feast gathering, and we will then share an Iftar meal together, to break the fast.

We are in the process of looking ahead to the next year, and have some exciting ideas and plans.

– Guest post, by Arthur Brown from The Feast Lebanon.

Volunteers run first Youth Encounter in Berlin

Earlier this year The Feast’s founder and Chair of Trustees, Canon Dr Andrew Smith, was invited by a number of church leaders in Berlin, Germany, to come and share about our work and how it could help them improve their interaction with people of other faiths.

We are now very pleased to be able to share that recently a group of volunteers ran their first pilot Youth Encounter event for Christian and Muslim young people in a forest just outside Berlin!!  They had a good mix of 13 or 14 young people, after persistent phone calls on the morning of the activity to make sure everyone came.

Leader Ben Froese shared afterwards,

“Some of the youth have commented already to me how it was so good to be able to talk about faith in a relaxed atmosphere, where you could really talk, where there was mutual listening and respect. There was no pressure, no negative discussion, and some good discussion in the small groups. “

The Saturday afternoon went well… until a storm hit.  They had torrential rainfall, thunder and lightening, all arriving just as they were finishing the last of their small group discussions.  The young people and youth leaders all went running off to the cars for shelter, leaving Ben and another leader Andrea soaking wet looking after the gear they had brought.

The downpour bought a premature end to their first encounter event, and meant they did not get to do the amazing looking high ropes course at the venue.

Ben told us,

“During the heavy rain, I reflected how this is God’s heart to bless us and every participant.   All in all, we are thankful. It didn’t run completely smoothly, but its a pilot event. We will learn what we can and start moving forward and looking for the next event. “

From all of us involved with The Feast around the UK, well done to all involved and wishing you all the best as you debrief and plan for future healthy and inspiring Youth Encounters for young people in Germany.  Well done!

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Introducing Mark Elliott – Development Worker, Bradford & Keighley

Hi, my name is Mark Elliott and as of the 1st June 2015 I am the Development Worker for The Feast in Bradford & Keighley.

A little bit about me… 
I am 29 years old and have been married to my beautiful wife Becki for 3 years. We live in Castleford in West Yorkshire and love spending time at our Church, The Salvation Army where Becki is the Children’s Team Leader and I am the Youth Team Leader.

My parents are ministers for The Salvation Army, some of the pros and cons of this meant that they would move to a new Church every few years. Before settling in Castleford with my wife I have lived in Dumfries, Stornaway, Fife, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Castleford, London, Wetherby and Nottingham!

I am very passionate about my:
> My Church and talking about my faith
> Music – I love to listen to all kinds of music from around the world
> Football – My team is Liverpool FC
>Ice Hockey – I support the Nottingham Panthers & the Boston Bruins

Joining the team… 
I am currently on my induction week in Birmingham and am enjoying meeting many of the inspirational people that work for and have contributed to the setup of The Feast. I am looking forward to bringing my skills to The Feast and beginning the job in Bradford & Keighley.

I am excited and passionate about continuing the great work that Chris Reynolds started in Bradford & Keighley and getting to know both communities through working for The Feast.