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.