The Near East School of Theology

This short video clip highlights the important work of the Near East School of Theology in promoting good relations between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon.  This is a Protestant seminary which has played a prominent, yet often quiet role in helping defuse tensions between religious communities in a sometimes contentious political atmosphere.

Here  is a link to their website:    NEST 

Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

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Christian Post — The Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, classified for many years by U.S. Intelligence as a terrorist organization, is training Christians to fight ISIS in Lebanon and the Middle Eastern believers say their new and unlikely allies “accept us as we are.”

Citing Lebanese sources, Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin says Christian villages in the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon are forming militias to join Hezbollah fighters already engaging ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nursa Front in the Syrian Qalamoun mountains opposite villages in central and eastern Bekaa.

Rifit Nasrallah, a Catholic businessman who is part of the militias fighting ISIS in Ras Baalbek, discussed the alliance with Hezbollah in an International Business Times report last month.

“We’re in a very dangerous situation,” he said. “The only people who are protecting us are the resistance of Hezbollah. The only one standing with the army is Hezbollah. Let’s not hide it anymore.”

Nasrallah said Hezbollah does not expect its allies to convert to Islam or create an allegiance to the group’s ideals.

“They accept us as we are,” he said. “They do not impose on us anything. When there’s an occasion, they come to our children’s birthdays. The people here accept that Hezbollah comes and helps.”

This unlikely alliance between Christians and Hezbollah is a far cry from the adversarial relationship depicted between the two groups in the region.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST

Lebanon: Islamic summit slams anti-Christian attacks and violence in the name of Islam

(Vatican Radio) The spiritual leaders of the main Islamic sects in Lebanon in a joint statement have warned after an “urgent summit” Tuesday, against fueling sectarian tensions in the country, underlining that inter-Muslim violence is forbidden. While denouncing the threats to the unity, security and stability of the Arab world, they slammed Israel for its alleged plans to divide Muslims. They also came to the defence of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
The special Islamic summit was held at Sunni Islam’s main body, Dar al-Fatwa’s headquarters in Beirut and was attended by a number of religious figures from all four sects. The meeting was headed by the Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, of Dar al-Fatwa, and was held for the first time after he was appointed on August 10, last year. The other religious heads were: Deputy Chief of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council Abdel-Amir Qabalan, Druze spiritual leader Naim Hassan and the religious head of Lebanon’s Alawite community Assad Assi. Mohammad Sammak, co-chair of the National Committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue, coordinated the event.

The representatives of the four Islamic groups voiced in a joint statement their “concern over the allegations exchanged between political officials that are taking sectarian natures.” They said adopting such rhetoric would “give a sectarian dimension to their disputes and thus widen the gap that the Israeli enemy is working to expand and exploit.” The statement said conflicts within Arab states wrongly suggest that “Muslims in general and Arabs in particular have given up the priority of the Palestinian cause,” which further benefits Israel.

They made several points, like condemning violent and discriminatory practices by takfirist Islam, condemning coercion in religious matters, calling for respect for everyone’s private and public rights, and reiterating the principle of pluralism in Muslim-Christian relations and intra-Muslim relations

The leaders argued that when conflicts take on a sectarian nature, they “endanger unity in the societies of these countries, including Lebanon, and thus their security and stability.” The summit called on “Muslims, all Muslims, to stick to God’s solid path and avoid fragmentation.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN RADIO 

In the name of God: Lebanese gathering emphasizes Christian, Muslim coexistence

assyrian-christians-beirut-lebanon-afpA gathering of Lebanese Christians, known as “the Lady of the Mountain,” met Sunday with the aim of mapping out the role that Christian’s should play in preserving coexistence in Lebanon and the region.

The protection of Lebanon requires Christians to work towards preventing sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis, which in turn would protect Muslims, Christians and the Lebanese entity as a whole, a statement released after the meeting said.

The statement also said that presidential elections should be carried out through a national approach, not a strictly Christian one.

The gathering agreed on the need to reemphasize the unique Lebanese model of coexistence, especially with regards to the Muslim-Christian and Sunni-Shiite partnership in governing a single state.

The statement noted that a return to the Taif Accord would bring an end to attempts to unsettle the foundations of Lebanese coexistence, saying that the agreement that ended Lebanon’s civil war serves as a model for religious coexistence in the region.

The convened also agreed that protecting Lebanon during this turbulent phase requires a set of initiatives, such as supporting the efforts of the Maronite Church in pushing lawmakers to end the year-long presidential vacuum.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL BAWABA

Top Islamic University, Muslim Leaders Condemn ISIS’ Slaughter of Ethiopian Christians, Say It Goes ‘Against Any Religion’

isisThe University of Al Azhar, the highest academic center of Sunni Islam, along with Muslim governments in the region have condemned the slaughter of 28 Ethiopian Christians in a video released by ISIS on Sunday.

The statement from Al Azhar, attributed to Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb and sent to Agenzia Fides, calls the mass killings a “heinous crime, committed by the Daesh terrorist group, which goes against any religion, law or human conduct.”

The terror group has targeted Christians in its attacks throughout the past year, and in February executed 21 Egyptian Coptics in another video posted online.

Muhammad Dayri, the foreign minister of Libya condemned the latest murders carried out by ISIS, and called them “barbaric.”

“This is not the first time that these hordes of ISIL operate with tragic and horrible actions in Libya,” Dayri said at a meeting of African and Asian leaders in Jakarta, referring to the February executions.

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry also spoke out against the slaughter of Ethiopian Christians and the religious nature of the crime.al-azhar-mosque-in-the-old-city-of-cairo-december-2-2011

“The Foreign Ministry condemns, in the strongest terms, terrorist organization ISIS’ slaughter and killing in cold blood of 28 innocent Christian Ethiopians in Libya, whose only sin was to not believe in ISIS’ takfiri ideas and delusional teachings,” the ministry said, expressing solidarity with the Ethiopian people in light of “this painful tragedy.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

The Future of the Middle East

imagesWhen I’m watching videos of ISIS destroying ancient statues or news coverage of the wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Iraq, I’m thinking about other “victims” of the current turmoil in the Middle East–my students at the American University of Beirut. Every day, their futures are being mapped out by bullets and bombs, and their hopes and dreams hijacked by widespread violence, rampant corruption, and the appallingfailure of the international community to put an end to the Syrian war.

Being in college is hard enough, but imagine studying for a bachelors degree and living away from home for the first time with violence breaking out in all directions. ISIS and the army exchanging gunfire on the border with Syria. Deadly shells detonating on the border with Israel. Suicide bombers exploding in the heart of Beirut. Political deadlock that has left Lebanon without a president for almost a year. No wonder it’s hard for so many students to focus in class.

Some of my students are Syrian refugees–whose trauma from the war back home is magnified by the unwelcome treatment they receive in Beirut. Others are Palestinian refugees, who have known nothing but displacement since birth. The majority are Lebanese, whose parents not so long ago were embroiled in a brutal civil war–that many believe never really ended.

ISIS fighters make regular guest appearances in my students’ creative assignments, and close friends who died in bomb blasts in Beirut cry out for peace from beyond the grave. When my students and I read Plato’s Republic, I invite them to imagine themselves as philosopher kings of Lebanon–and ask them what their first order of business would be. A common response? “Burn it to the ground!” And after that? “Walk away,” they say.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Lebanese Shiite leader launches interfaith dialogue

Shiite cleric Ali Fadlallah (R), son of“God taught us how to converse with all people. There are no sanctities when it comes to dialogue. God Almighty himself spoke to the devil. Are there people like the devil? Also, the Quran is a book of dialogue with polytheists about the unity of God, and with infidels about the existence of God and the prophecy of Muhammad.” This is how the late Lebanese Shiite cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah responded when asked about the increased talk of interfaith dialogue in the 1990s.

The occasion to talk about the late Fadlallah today, and about his call for dialogue with the “Other” — especially with other Christian and Islamic sects — is an initiative launched by his son, the scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah. The latter established the “Religions and Cultures Forum for Development and Dialogue,” in which 50 different personalities participated, including Muslim and Christian clerics and intellectuals from Lebanon and other countries of the Arab and Islamic world.

This forum was announced by Fadlallah during a ceremony held in Beirut on Tuesday, Oct. 30, attended by MPs, politicians, party leaders, intellectuals and media figures. The most prominent attendees included the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance (Hezbollah) Bloc, MP Mohammad Raad; the head of the Islamic Group in Lebanon’s political bureau, Azzam Ayoubi; a representative of former Lebanese President and Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel; and delegations from the Amal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party.

A number of religious leaders were also in attendance, including the Rev. Fadi Daou, a representative of Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara al-Rai; Rev. Sulaiman Wehbe, a representative of the patriarch of Antakya, Alexandria and Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Gregory III Laham; a representative for the papal ambassador to Lebanon; Archbishop Daniel Sukkar, a representative for Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas; and a number of Sunni, Shiite and Druze religious scholars from Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic world. The most notable among the latter were the General Secretary of the Supreme Islamic Legislative Council Sheikh Khaldoun Oraymit, and Sheikh Sami Abou al-Mona, who represented the spiritual leader for the Druze sect Sheikh Naim Hassan.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR