Lebanon must rise again to be a source of beauty
This article originally appeared on The Toronto Star at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/08/06/lebanon-must-rise-again-to-be-a-source-of-beauty.html and has been reproduced on this page with permission from the author.
Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody. But how shall I, unless you yourselves be also the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements.
— Khalil Gibran
With the tragic explosion and destruction in Beirut, questions abound on the future of this fragile nation. In Lebanon there is a feeling that this battered country has hit a dead end in every way. But who cares for Lebanon? Maybe this is a reminder we all should.
I care because of my Lebanese heritage, but we all should, because, while this ancient land has had a mostly unlucky recent history, this little speck on the Mediterranean has contributed much to civilization, including the birthplace of humanity’s first city, Jbail (Byblos) and has been an inspiring source of innovation and beauty over its long history. Even past wars did not extinguish Lebanese passions for all things beautiful as, before, any trip to Beirut would still expose a reverence for style, great food and fun.
The land of the Phoenix deserves to rise again not only for the sake of its suffering people, but its potential to contribute beautiful things to a world in need.
For Canadians, the reason to care relates to our national interests in Lebanon. On the national security front, with the global social, political and economic issues surrounding migration coming out of the war in Syria, there is a clear Canadian national security interest that Lebanon is serving as a potential source of stability and openness in a troubled region and world.
Lebanon has the highest per capita refugee population in the world. As such, a failed Lebanon will not make us safer.
On the economic development front, there are Canadian economic interests that can be served to provide opportunities for growing our modern Canadian economy. Despite all of its problems, Lebanon has an educated and cosmopolitan youth and a renowned entrepreneurial culture with good universities that can be a strong partner for innovation and future economic development.
Finally, Lebanon with its progressive and open culture can be a critical base for Canada to further advance the cause of women’s rights in the Arab world and Asia. There are many extraordinary women in Lebanon to support and promote the advancement of women. Amal Clooney is the most famous example.
But where to start? Lebanon needs to make the first move and take a cue from their younger Swiss friends and declare Lebanon neutral to all conflicts and disputes in the Middle East and pledge there will never be any offensive military operation launched from Lebanese soil, ever by anyone, and where no government asks or cares for your religion but worships service to its people.
This old land is scarred from conflict and too tired to bear more. It needs to help itself to again be a source of beautiful things and heed the words of those who took the streets under the banner “One Lebanon.” Then friends like Canada can truly help beyond aid in the wake of another needless tragedy.
Again in the words of Khalil Gibran:
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.