- Mar 17, 2007
I am very proud of this achievement, this is a feat for Lebanon, a country where faith and diversity play a huge role in how the country is run. In a country where inter-faith conflict almost pushed it to the brink of destruction, a holiday like this is a great start for a new page in Lebanese history with hopefully more and more achievements and progress to follow.JAMHOUR: Last month, Parliament declared March 25, the day of the Annunciation, as the first national holiday for Christians and Muslims alike.
It was the culmination of efforts by an interfaith organization dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which celebrated the occasion for the last three years with prayers by Muslim and Christian clergymen for Mary, who is revered by both religions.
On Thursday, the official celebration, called “Together Around Mary, Our Lady,” was held at Collège Notre Dame de Jamhour, organized by the school’s alumni association, Amicale des Anciens Elèves de Jamhour, in cooperation with the Polish Embassy and the Islamic-Christian Day organization.
More than 1,000 people gathered in the school’s ornate church, including religious leaders from Maronite, Orthodox, Sunni and Shiite institutions. They were joined by the guest of honor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa, who founded the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, Solidarity, in 1980. Walesa went on to become president of his country from 1990 to 1995, as the first democratically elected Polish leader after World War II.
Polish Ambassador Tomasz Niegodzisz was also present for the ceremony.
Renowned singer Tania Kassis, who was granted the Lebanese Achievement Medal for encouraging religious and cultural dialogue through her work, opened with her “Islamic-Christian Ave Maria,” which has wowed audiences throughout the country for the past year. The tune consists of a harmonious blend of Ave Maria lyrics and religious Islamic chants.
The performance was followed by comments by Naji Khoury, who is the co-head the Islamic-Christian Gathering for Mary and Jamhour’s alumni association.
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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Khoury, a long-time campaigner for the national holiday, congratulated everyone who participated in the Islamic-Christian meeting and shared his hopes that this peaceful union would be an example for the world to follow. He ended his speech by dedicating this years meeting to the Virgin Mary “who watches over her children of all religions, cultures and ethnicities.”
The holiday and gathering are only part of the campaigners’ objectives. Sheikh Mohammad Nakkari, a religious court magistrate in Beirut and the other co-head of the Islamic-Christian Gathering for Mary, announced the opening of a garden in the name of the mother of Christ next to the National Museum.
He said the organization plans to build a center for Islamic-Christian studies in Lebanon. In his speech, Nakkari thanked Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his predecessor Fouad Siniora for encouraging this annual reunion of different faiths.
A film by Nada Raphael was also screened, showing towns and villages such as Rashaya, Ain Ibil, Hermel and Sidon, where Muslims and Christians have been coexisting for centuries.
Walesa took the stage smiling at the moving union of different faiths, whose members have come a long way since the Lebanese Civil War.
The Nobel Laureate encouraged the Lebanese to keep unifying through faith, reminding them that they still have something that Europe is quickly losing, “and that is human values.”
“The world is in need of these precious human values that you have wisely preserved, and as long as we have the Virgin Mary in common to guide us, nothing is impossible,” he said.