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The Story Of Religion, Lebanon and Myself: An Inspirational Post on Religious Tolerance in Lebanon

I was getting my daily fix of news from google reader this afternoon and I fell upon this inspirational blog post about religious tolerance in Lebanon from Seif and his Beiruti Adventures and I thought I'd share it with my readers, especially after the journalist incident last week. I sure hope that Ali Seif doesn't mind the repost.
[...] Ramadan seems to have passed by very quickly this year with 10 days or so left of fasting (depending on where you are). Ramadan is one of my favourite months, as I really enjoy the days of fasting, prayer, forgiveness, and blessing associated with this month. It’s a break from the 11 other months of hectic busy schedules, anger, and nagging.

I may have mentioned this before, but my family has never been “all that religious” in the past, as is the case with many Sunni Muslim families of the Bekaa Valley (specifically in the Zahle province). I was taught how to pray, fast, and the basic necessities of Islam, but not much more, even though my father is very religiously educated and knows very much when it comes to Islam. Instead, my family focused on religious tolerance, respect to any faith, and education. My father has his PhD in Mathematical Education and a Masters in “Applied Mathematics”, so education was of prime importance to him and my mother. I ventured to discover more about Islam, and I went into more “in depth” topics which really did scare me off for a while. It took me a while to discover that religion does not have to be a scary thing, or something that holds us back from many things. It doesn’t have to be something “left wing” or “right wing” but instead something in the middle.

Today, I practice religion very differently from most people. I pray 5 times a day, fast, and follow most Islamic traditions…. but I also fast during Lent, go to Church during Christmas, and of course Good Friday. It’s not because I am unsure of my religion, but instead I feel that both of these religions have the same “concept” or “hadaf” in the end, and thats what is important. I remember the days of fasting with Charbel during easter, while he fasts in Ramadan with me (this year is no exception, even if I am far LOL). It’s a great feeling knowing that I am so understanding and my mind is so open, something I wish Lebanon would adopt… but unfortunately it does not. Ramadan is so special to me not only for my own beliefs, or for a time where I practice something “Muslim” but because I have friends in Lebanon who are different denominations of Christians who fast with me. It’s rewarding to know we accept each other despite religion, and actually practice bits and pieces from the faiths of each other…and after all isn’t that the spirit of Ramadan? Acceptance, welcoming, and peace? I sure think so. I guess that’s why I love Ramadan, it makes acceptance and coexistence so easy for me, I don’t know about others, but it really does for me. I will never forget last Ramadan. I was on the far end of the city here, and I broke my fast quickly. I wanted to pray, and as there was already snow and cold weather… praying outside would have been very difficult. I realized I was next to the Lebanese Maronite Church that is located in this city, so I parked my car and opened the door. I was greeted by the priest who runs this church. I talked to him and introduced myself which he also did. He was a pleasant man, full of smiles and laughter. ”I need to pray”, I said, very bashfully. And he smiled back at me and said “Of course, take a seat, I will be back in 5 minutes”, is what he replied. As soon as he was gone, he was back carrying a sheet and told me to follow him. He took me to a room in the back of the church, where he placed the mat on the floor for me, and told me he already placed the sheet facing the Kaaba so I can pray. I thanked him, the smile on my face and my voice really did show how grateful and how embarrassed I was of him. He shut the door behind him and went out of the room. During my 6th ruq3a (or bow) in my prayer (which was a quick Taraweeh) I smelled the most beautiful scent of incense filling the room. I finished my prayer and rolled up the sheet which he so kindly provided for me. “I hope the incense did not bother you, I prayed along side you, maybe God will answer our prayers if they go together”, he said smiling so warmly. “Of course not, I love it”, I replied. We walked out of that room and past the Alter. I knelt before the large statue of Mary on it and asked for a safe drive home. “I wish more people were like you, and myself. It would make our home country much better. May God accept your prayer, and a blessed month of fasting to you my son”, is what he said. From that day, I realized what Islam and Christianity are, what Ramadan is all about, and what Lebanon should be.

Until this day, I visit this priest, and he has become a part of my family. Charbel, my friend in Lebanon, also has done things which showed me the feeling of coexistence, and displayed to me the beauty of religion. I no longer fear religion, but embrace it as a tool, and the key to peace and love…. no matter what it is. This is Islam, this is Christianity, and this is Ramadan.

I hope the remainder of this holy month brings you more of it’s blessings, and helps pave the way to understanding, love, and unity, as it has for me. Maybe… just maybe one day, Lebanon will do the same.

God Bless, and a Belated Ramadan Kareem!


  1. What a beautiful article. Thank you for re-posting this! I wish everyone in this country (and others) would learn from this young man's experience.


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