The first “Tripoli Human Fraternity Day”, which was held on Sunday, October 6, at St. Francis Convent in Tripoli-Mina, has certainly marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the second-largest city in Lebanon. Promoted by the Pontifical Missionary Union and the Pontifical Mission Societies-Lebanon, in cooperation with the Religion & Security Council and Dialogue for Life and Reconciliation, the event built on the Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sh. Ahmad El Tayyeb, to promote the opening of new prospects for interreligious and intercultural dialogue, as the way forward to advance peace, security, justice, and human rights, for all citizens and groups in Tripoli and North Lebanon.
At the helm of this endeavor is the new generation, young Christians and Muslims together. They were the main protagonists of the “Tripoli Human Fraternity Day”. The proceedings begun in the morning with the “Youth Interreligious Forum”, which gathered a delegation of over 50 university students and young professionals, selected by a network of entities and NGOs that partnered in the organization of the event, such as Fly for the Lebanese Youth, Mousawat Association, Utopia, Alawite Islamic Charity Association, Maronite Youth Committee of Tripoli’s Archeparchy, Melkite Youth Patriarchal Committee, and Maronite Youth Pastoral Ehden Zgharta.
During the “Youth Interreligious Forum”, participants discussed the future of Christian-Muslim relations in Tripoli in light of the Human Fraternity Document, along with a panel of scholars and practitioners, including Rev. Fr. Raphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies-Lebanon, Sh. Mohammed Ramez El Hamawi and Sh. Mohammed Haydar, both members of the Sustainable Network of Religious Leaders in the North of Lebanon, and Dr. Elias El Halabi, Director of the Christian-Muslim Studies Center, University of Balamand. The debate was introduced and moderated by Dr. Ziad Fahed, President of Dialogue of Life and Reconciliation, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanities, Notre Dame University-Louaize, and founder of the Sustainable Network of Religious Leaders in the North of Lebanon.
The exchange between speakers and participants focused on the importance for Muslims and Christians in Tripoli to reach out to one another and strengthen cooperation without any fear of losing or dissolving their identity. The Human Fraternity Document encourages them to go forth from their comfort zones, and join hands to address the issues that still prevent Tripoli from restoring its golden history of coexistence, solidarity, and harmony between faiths and cultures. The paradigm of the Human Fraternity Document was actually a living experience for Tripoli’s inhabitants prior to the outbreak of the civil war, while today the call to promote brotherly relations is being met by many religious and lay leaders, as well as actors and activists of the civil society. In this context, the Human Fraternity Document can act as a guiding star for those who are already committed to interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and as a catalyst of new efforts and initiatives. Moreover, to raise awareness on the message of the Human Fraternity Document, both in schools and universities, would help strengthen education to dialogue, which plays a crucial role in countering extremism, especially among the new generation.
The debate led to the formation of working groups that engaged the participants in the drafting of the “Statement for Human Fraternity in Tripoli and North Lebanon”. Coordinated by Dr. Ziad Fahed, the working groups elaborated a written declaration on the principles and values to be implemented in Tripoli’s social and cultural fabric, along the lines of the Human Fraternity Document.
The “Youth Interreligious Forum” was followed in the afternoon by the “Leaders Interreligious Forum”, which featured prominent Christian and Muslim religious figures: Msgr. Joseph Spiteri, Vatican Nuncio in Lebanon; Sh. Malik Al Chaar, Grand Mufti of Tripoli; Msgr. César Essayan, Latin Bishop in Lebanon; Msgr. Georges Aboujaoudé, Archbishop of the Maronite-Catholic Archeparchy of Tripoli. In front of an audience of 300 hundred people, the religious leaders concurred that Lebanon embodies the deepest significance of the Human Fraternity Document, showing the world that the presence of different faiths and denominations does not exclude common living in peace, as citizens of the same country and of the same city. Christians and Muslims in Tripoli need to empower their connection, making dialogue and mutual understanding evolve into cooperation to oppose extremism and the exploitation of religions for political purposes.
The proceedings of the “Leaders Interreligious Forum” were introduced and moderated by Rev. Fr. Quirico Calella OFM, Director of the St. Francis Convent, who recalled the encounter between St. Francis’ and the Egyptian Sultan Al Malik Al Kamil that occurred 800th years ago as a major historical landmark for interreligious dialogue. Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sh. Ahmad El Tayyeb, are today walking in the footsteps of St. Francis and the Sultan, and so are Christians and Muslims in Tripoli and North Lebanon.
The highlight of the “Tripoli Human Fraternity Day” was reached when representatives of the Sunni, Alawite, and Christian delegations in the “Youth Interreligious Forum” took the floor to read the “Statement for Human Fraternity in Tripoli and North Lebanon”. By their deeds, actions, and resolve, they pledged to promote respect and dignity for all in Tripoli, irrespective of their background and religious affiliations, away from the concepts of majority and minority. They rejected any speech or discourse that can stir hatred, sectarian strife, and fear among Tripoli’s population, while they committed to spreading the culture of love, brotherhood, and tolerance, proclaimed by all religions and reaffirmed by the Human Fraternity Document. The new generation of Tripoli and North Lebanon will work together to launch new initiatives that will contribute to advance peace, security, justice, and human rights, with special care for the most vulnerable and marginalized. In doing so, they will adopt dialogue as the path, and cooperation as the way, in order to bring about the positive change desired.
The first “Tripoli Human Fraternity Day” was organized within the Formation Program on “The Mission of Young Christians in Tripoli and North Lebanon”, hosted by the St. Francis Convent and promoted by the Pontifical Missionary Union and the Pontifical Mission Societies-Lebanon, in conjunction with the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019 announced by Pope Francis. The “Tripoli Human Fraternity Day” was endorsed by Caritas Lebanon, Tripoli Chamber of Commerce, North LEDA-Lebanon Local Economic Development Agency, Tripoli Entrepreneurs Club, Middle East Institute for Research and Strategic Studies. The event was designed by the Religion & Security Council.