Sunday, November 29, 2009

a mosque and a church

Often this past summer while I was in Bishmezzine, my husband and I would go for a walk in the morning. One morning we walked up to the village center. His family live in a valley so it is an uphill climb.
Besides bougainvillea trailing over walls, walnut and pomegranate trees, towering pines, cucumber patches, artichoke gardens, jasmine bushes, roses and nisrine, I loved looking at old shuttered windows. The old sun damaged paint reminded me of the old sun damaged paint on the shuttered windows of Cholula and Puebla Mexico. The old arches are also interesting. Old uncle Omar told me that in the old construction, no mortar was used between the stones, that it is simply the engineering that holds up the stone arches. This one must have been bricked in at some point, with a tin door added. No handle, though, so I don't think it's functional. Weeds colonize the spaces between stones, capitalizing on any spot that will have them. The mist and dew that is ubiquitous each morning in the village are their source of hydration. Just like me, some of the women hang their carpets out in the spring/ early summer to freshen them up.
We eventually ended up at the cemetery. This old grave filled with plants is in the Muslim side of the cemetery.
This grave is even older, more like a bed of stone. Although there is no name, I am sure that most in the village know exactly whose grave this is. After all, the village is not big. You can easily walk around it, meet a lot of folks (who will invite you for coffee or tea or lemonade) and get to know people, both Christian and Muslim. Nobody asks you if you are Christian or Muslim before inviting you to sit with them. Clearly, with my white skin, blond hair, and "Western" and "foreign" look, I was marked as Christian (I'm not a practicing Christian, however), but that was irrelevant. No one asked me for I.D. ;-) In fact, after awhile, when I was walking by myself, I learned to avoid certain houses otherwise I'd have been having coffee all day, going from house to house and not get any of my work done! (I was teaching a web course for my university in Canada while in Lebanon). This is one of my husband's relative's graves.
The Muslim cemetery is right beside the Christian church.
The Muslim cemetery is also right in front of the Christian cemetery. The gates to the Christian cemetery are between the Muslim cemetery and the church.
The Christian cemetery holds crypts and other above ground graves
but my camera started to react to the heat after I took this photo and was not being very compliant. This is a look up the church
from the front doors. Directly across the street from the village church is the village mosque. The church and the mosque and the Christian cemetery and the Muslim cemetery co-exist. This has been for 100s of years.
Thank god the people in Lebanon are more reasonable than the people of Switzerland, who have just recently banned minarets from being built. I first read about the vote to ban minarets in Switzerland on Tasnim's blog I am appalled by the narrow minded right wing Islamophobia that runs amok in Europe. Why are fears and racism against Islam and Muslims so virulent in Europe? The Swiss fear minarets are political....but I guess churches are not. Hmmm. What other architectural structures could we think about banning? What about anything that resembles a phallus? Or what about dead men on horses? Why not ban memorials to war?

Maybe the Swiss folks should take some lessons from the Lebanese. They could learn something about living together with differences. They oughta be ashamed of themselves, for exposing their fears and racism under the guise of being a democracy. It seems democracy and choice are to be the vanguards reserved only for those who deem themselves the gatekeepers of them.


Merche Pallarés said...

Beautiful pictures! Yes, I can't understand WHY people,of different religions and races, cannot live together with respect and tolerance. That village in Lebanon is a very good example. Hugs, M.

Ari said...

Maybe the Swiss have just red about Dubai's financial problems, their banks will get less and less money from that direction.

marja-leena said...

Lovely photos, Taina! I didn't know that Christians and Muslim live so close together in Lebanon - what a great example for the rest of the world, and shame on those who don't!

northshorewoman said...

MP, We seem to relish constructing boundaries in the 21st century, unfortunately. We live in cultures of fear. A right wing Swiss politician was interviewed on CBC news radio suppertime today; he spoke in the most rational way about this new ban they have put in place. It's nothing about racism, he says. It never ceases to amaze me how people rationalize the most vile things. In their minds the issues are neat and clean.

Ari, necrocapitalism or death-dealing capitalism which is what neo-liberalism is, is the bed mate of many these days, whether minarets or church spires or temples or other places of worship dot their landscapes. Dubai, like Canada and the US have done and continue to do (tar sands in Canada for one big ugly death pit), is ruining the landscape of its children's children's future. Like we continue to do in the West, environmental and social costs of so-called development are left out of the financial accounts. Dubai is just doing what we did but fast-forward and condensed. The problems are more evident, especially for us Westerners who like to point fingers "over there" rather than look in our own dirty back yards.

ML, There is lots I still need to post of my stay in Lebanon and Bahrain! In a nutshell, whatever stereotypes we have in the west--throw them out the window.