09 August 2006

26 days of our lives have gone by

Rev. Paul Haidostian, Ph.D., continues to write his letters from Lebanon
under the title "Armenian letter from Lebanon"

Dear ones,

Twenty-six days of our lives have gone by, spiritually challenging, but
mostly wasted and distressing. All life remains suspended and threatened
until further notice, including academic life at Haigazian University.
While our intention to complete the summer session is still there, many
students have been asking about the fate of the Fall semester. Our answer
is always one of hope. We have suffered many "hot" summers since 1975 and
have survived, and we believe we will resume normal activity in due time.

The good news of these days comes to us on the billboards of Beirut.
One local bank lists six different times when Lebanon was destroyed in the
past 30 years and says, "Those of us who have built before, will build
again!" Another bank announcement says, "Surely the clouds will give way to

War humor is also on the rise. "The Shiites of Lebanon are certainly the
most educated community," one joke says, "because they spend maximum time in
schools," referring to the fact that the majority of the population of
Southern Lebanon and Southern Beirut now displaced and taken refuge in
schools, are Shiites.

Unfortunately, the military race in Lebanon is still on: between a "mighty"
army that has secured the justification of its atrocious acts and state
terrorism before it even commits them, and a militia that has entered a
"holy" war, the beginning of which has caused further divisions in Lebanon,
and the end of which can lead to more terror and conflicts.

Politically speaking, the vast majority of the followers of the developments
have reason to be pessimistic. The powers that control international
politics are not honest brokers and therefore do not have justice and peace
as their aim, and the totalitarian regimes of the region are not even
capable to function in a culture where justice and peace are valued.
Lebanon is once more a captivating arena in the clash of interests and
agenda of those powers.

And I pity the Lebanese politicians, a majority of whom are still and only
interested in strengthening their position vis-à-vis their local opponents.
Television and Radio talk-shows fill the air. A few dozen individuals keep
appearing on all channels to interpret and reinterpret the events in ways
that exactly fit their limited ideology. There are those who speak about the
current war in Lebanon as if it is unrelated to the context of the larger
Middle Eastern crisis and the Palestinian cause, and others who speak as if
the welfare and future of Lebanon are not at stake and the only worthwhile
issue is the Arab-Israeli crisis. You have those who paint the picture of
the resistance of Hizbullah in divine patterns, and then you have those,
unfortunately including some Lebanese, who continue to be impressed by the
Israeli appetite and power to crush its enemies without mercy.

Soon, the pages of four weeks of this infamous war on Lebanon will be
completed and this is my fourth letter to you all. Almost one-thousand
civilians have been killed. Many more thousands have been injured. A few
thousand apartment buildings have been totally ruined, one of which housed
Mr. Moukalled and his family, a professor of Computer Science and at our
university. The targets in Lebanon have been mostly civilian targets. Some
may be close to military targets, but only close to. Others are miles away
from any military post in Lebanon. We are promised to witness more
destruction, more killing, and rounds of disaster after disaster.

Lebanon has often been the envy of its neighbors. Lebanon has always wanted
to be proud of its wealth of civilization, intercultural identity,
institutions, beauty and energy to create. And yet, look at the symbols
Israel has chosen to destroy before everything else: the airport, seaports,
bridges, communication stations, and the like, the exact symbols of Lebanese
openness to the world.

We have been used to be envied, as you all know, not pitied. But there are
still reasons to envy Lebanon.

In the face of the crisis, I am impressed by the solidarity of the Lebanese
with each other even if they continue to politically disagree. As a friend
pointed to me more than one-fourth of the population has been displaced, and
yet crime, violence, and social unrest remain at a minimum.

I am impressed by the sacrificial work done by the volunteers and the aid
workers, some of whom arrived in Lebanon after most foreigners had been
evacuated from Lebanon! Dozens of thousands have evacuated, but hundreds of
foreigners have benevolently filled the humanitarian vacuum.

I am impressed by the hope and faith of the Lebanese population. I noted
after our church service in the Armenian Evangelical Church in Ashrafieh
yesterday that the worse the situation gets in the country the louder our
hymns of praise, repentance, supplication, and dedication sound.

I am impressed by the perseverance of the people of Lebanon, including the
Armenians. I see sadness, fear, uncertainty, and disappointment in the
faces of the people around me every day. But I am yet to here people
complain. A staff member at Haigazian University spent three and a half
hours today trying to secure petrol for the van that transports our staff.
The professor whose house was totally destroyed said he could only thank God
for safety. These attitudes will help build the country again.

I am impressed by the multitude of individuals and organizations in the
world that have shown special love for Lebanon and have tried to help in
some way, have written, prayed, marched, and pledged support.
These will help build both the morale as well as the bridges.

But I am also disappointed!

I am disappointed in the Lebanese official political structure. We do not
have still, a crisis management center or structure in the country. There
are dedicated individuals, Prime Minister F. Saniora, and Minister of Health
M. Khalife, just to name two. But neither relief efforts, nor information
dissemination have been organized or centralized by the government.

I am disappointed in parts of the Middle Eastern populations, Islamic
parties and leaders, who capitalize on the pain and suffering of their
people, neglect the human in the other, and glorify violence and hatred of
the "other", sometimes known as the "Westerner", the "Christian" or the

I am disappointed in the huge gap I notice between the goodness and
benevolence of the average American citizens I have tasted, and the policies
of their government that often reflect a careless reading of the real needs
of "weaker" nations, and a patronizing management of the situations of the
world. Much material, natural, cultural, organizational, educational, and
developmental wealth has been given to the USA therefore much will be

I am disappointed in those countries, churches, and individuals, who claim
to have the gospel of Jesus Christ as the norm of their life and yet fail to
ask the critical questions of justice, mercy and peace in this world.
Christians cannot conform to this world, or to the dominant powers of this
world. The peace of Christ cannot be spread by the bloodshed of humans
victims of wars no matter what the reasons for those wars, and the kingdom
of God cannot be built on policies that lead to violence, retaliation, and

Despite all the disappointment, we do not lose heart. There is work to be
done both during and after the crisis.

The Christian population of the Middle East is called to play a unique role
in these times: to read the Gospel of reconciliation in ways that are not
hijacked by the political cultures of a "Christian" West, and to be living
witnesses of the love of Christ to non-Christians in the Middle East who
sometimes make it difficult to pour that love into their midst. And the
need is to do and be both in ways that are critical of the status quo both
in the East and the West.

Till we communicate again, let us all remember that what binds us all is
neither defined by political agreement, nor common ideology, nor
convenience, but by our humbleness and love as undeserving children of God's


Rev. Paul Haidostian, Ph.D.
Haigazian University
P.O.B. 11-1748
Riad El Solh 1107 2090
Beirut, Lebanon
Telephone: +961-1-739412

Source: Jean Eckian from Paris via Beirut (www.inhomage.com)
7 August 2006

URL in Azad-Hye website:


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