Sunday, June 26, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: One Good Coincidence

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

When a coincidence is better than a thousand dates

Three Maronites came to Jounieh Saturday night to enjoy a concert. Each of them sat under the watchful eye and wide embrace of Harissa’s Lady of Lebanon, in the vicinity of the Maronite Church’s headquarters, and listened. The spotlight was on someone other than them for a change. The night belonged to the art and talent of a true Lebanese and genuine star, Ms. Magida El Roumi.

Only Jounieh can offer this symbolic setting and so it did through its first annual International Festival that kicked off with the magical Magida Concert.

I was one of the thousands of the concert attendees and observed with great interest how Samir Geagea arrived first accompanied by his wife Sitrida without any fanfare. Shortly after Michel Aoun arrived with a sizeable security detail which left no doubt that the General is in the house. He then waved repeatedly to a cheering crowd of supporters before taking his seat in the audience. President Michel Sleiman’s arrival was officially announced through the microphone and generated the loudest and longest cheers. There were other dignitaries of course but my focus on these three is because of their varying roles and positions within Lebanon’s Maronite community. Especially interesting is the longtime rivalry and animosity in opinion and political position between Aoun and Geagea which many believe needs to be addressed and hopefully rectified once and for all.

Magida said it best as she opened her concert. She welcomed the President of the Republic and expressed to her audience how honored she was to have them all attend “with the President at the head of the list.” She also used the opportunity to welcome “leaders of various political leanings.” Magida then concluded softly and eloquently, “I don’t think there is one Lebanese who is not happy to see you together.”

So there, in the heart of Jounieh, at the Fouad Chehab Stadium, rivals sat and listened to one song after another through the bejeweled voice and presence of one of Lebanon’s finest. Most of the songs Magida sang were from the 80’s very reminiscent of Lebanon’s war days. The lyrics had a different weight knowing that Geagea and Aoun were in the front row seats listening just like the rest of us to “Ya Beirut” and “Raje3 Yet3ammar Libnan.” They might have even hummed with us a tune or two.. Several people in the audience wiped off tears.. I also shed some at the memory of the suffering we endured during the war, a sad but hopeful memory those songs always bring back.

In a moment of reflection afterwards, I said a prayer to friends who are no longer with us and those who paid with their life and livelihood for those same leaders to prevail.. And I wondered how Aoun and Geagea must have reacted to the songs and whether they felt any remorse or guilt at all.

It wouldn’t be wrong if they felt guilty. Quite the opposite.. If they did, then Harissa would’ve performed a second miracle in one night. Having them sit quietly under its skies is one and remorse as the first step towards any true reconciliation is the second!

I know what you’re thinking.. That’s exactly why I called it a “miracle!”

View This Column In Arabic



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