The “International Ecumenical Youth Meeting” Launched in Beirut By the Churches of Lebanon, MECC and the Taizé Community

Dr. Souraya Bechealany: The Youth Shall realize that the Christian element contributes to human dignity, to religious freedom and to the freedom of all religious, ethnic, and cultural identities

Monsignor Toufic Bou Hadir: During this Meeting, the youth will experiment “the wealth of diversity” and will discover that what they have in common exceeds by far their differences

Brother Emile: The founder of the Taizé Community visited Lebanon for the first time in 1982 to meet the family of Ghasssibé Keyrouz

At the invitation of the Churches of Lebanon, the Middle East Council of Churches and the French Ecumenical Community of Taizé, Beirut will be hosting the “International Ecumenical Youth Meeting” under the title “The Righteous shall grow like a Cedar of Lebanon”, from March 22 to 26, 2019. This event that takes place for the first time was launched by a press conference held on March 12, 2019, at the Beirut SEASIDE ARENA (formerly known as Biel).

Monsignor Toufic Bou Hadir
Attended by a remarkable number of representatives from the various churches and the press, the conference started with the Lebanese national anthem and a welcome speech by media specialist Mrs. Huguette Salameh. Then Mgr. Toufic Bouhadir, Coordinator of the Organizing Committee, took the floor to assert that the First Ecumenical Meeting in Lebanon and the Middle East will create the opportunity for around 1,600 young men and women aged 18 to 35 years old from Lebanon and 43 countries around the world to experiment the ecumenical spirit, adding that “This is not a traditional Meeting, because it is characterized by a central committee stemming from all the Churches in the Middle East, with no exception. The members of this committee were delegated from their Beatitudes the Patriarchs and Church Leaders, in addition to 25 smaller committees that were holding meetings since the preparations began, about a year ago. They were all collaborating as one heart, to achieve success until the end. All of them believe in the importance of this ecumenical event. They experienced together that there is no fear in love” (John 4: 18).
Mgr. Bouhadir added: “More than 200 young people from different ecclesiastic and scouting movements volunteered in the organization. The youth coming from outside Lebanon will be hosted by Lebanese families, not only for shelter, but to exchange cultures and experiences.
He concluded: “During this meeting, the youth will experiment “the wealth of diversity” and will discover that what they have in common exceeds by far their differences. Therefore, youth from the Muslim communities will join them on March 25, to celebrate jointly the occasion of the Unified National Day of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary at Downtown Beirut.

Then, the Meeting’s activities, spirit and extents were presented by the representatives of various spiritual families in the Middle East. Rev. Dr. Rima Nasrallah talked about the program and its spiritual dimension, followed by Father Neemeh Saliba who talked about openness and ecumenical work, saying that it is the core Christian testimony among Christian youth and in their relationship with the Muslim youth. As for Archimandrite Hrant Tahanian, he spoke about the international dimension and the openness of the youth to dialogue and tolerance.

Brother Emile, from the Taize Community
After a promotion video on the Meeting, Brother Emile from the Taizé Community talked about the mission of the ecumenical prayer of the Taizé ecumenical monastic Community and its relationship with Lebanon, explaining the objective of this Meeting. He made a historical overview of this relationship that goes back to the beginning of the Lebanese war with the founder Brother Roger.
“In 1982, Brother Roger, the founder of the Taizé Community visited Lebanon. He had promised young Lebanese who had been to Taizé in France, a few years earlier, that he would visit them.  I was with him for this visit which left a deep mark on me.
Beyond the friendship with Lebanese people, another reason motivated Brother Roger to come to Lebanon. He wanted to visit the family of a young man from Lebanon who was killed on December 25th 1975. Ghassibé Keyrouz, the young man in question, was about to undertake a journey from Beirut to his home village of Nabha, in the Bekaa. He had the intimation that he might be killed, and so he wrote to his family: “I ask of you only one thing: Forgive those who have killed me.”  This request was accompanied by another, contained in a word that he repeated three times and that he must have felt was a precondition for this forgiveness: “Pray, pray, pray.” And after thrice writing this word, he added: “Love your enemies.”
Brother Roger saw in Ghassibé’s request, and in the faith that made such a request possible, what could give Lebanon a future. But in this Lebanese example, Brother Roger also saw a light that could enlighten other human situations in other parts of the world.

Dr. Souraya Bechealany
The Conference concluded with a speech by the Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, Dr. Souraya Bechealany, on the role of the Council in activating the ecumenical spirit and work among young people.
“This is not a passing meeting”, she said. It is rather a spiritual youth event that aims at deepening the roots of faith, hope, and unity among the Christian youth by showing the wealth of their diverse Church and national identities. It is intended to consolidate the Christian presence and message in the Middle East, as they will realize more and more that this Christian presence is an integral part of the history, present, and future of the Middle East. They will also realize that the Christian element contributes to human dignity, to religious freedom and to the freedom of all religious, ethnic, and cultural identities”.
She added: “It is because the Middle East Council of Churches, ever since its foundation in 1974, has been striving to enhance unity in diversity and the essential role and message of the youth in building the Church, societies and nations, that today, in collaboration with the Churches of Lebanon and the Taizé Community, MECC is organizing this Ecumenical International Meeting”.
The meeting will take place from March 23 to 25, 2019. The date of arrival to Beirut will be on Friday, March 22, in the afternoon for youth coming from abroad. As for the departure date, it will be on Tuesday, March 26 in the evening.
Participants from abroad will be hosted in the homes of host and volunteer families from various churches in and around the Greater Beirut area. The activity is distributed in the afternoon to 25 parishes’ centers in the same region, about 45 minutes from the center of Beirut, where morning prayers, spiritual subjects and exchange of experiences will be held.

The central activities will be held in the center of Beirut on the afternoon of each day. Workshops and seminars will be distributed to various churches in the region and the Central Ecumenical Festive Prayers will be held in the evening at the SEASIDE ARENA (Formerly known as Biel).

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