Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2003
War still haunts Lebanon's soul
Nation's youth raised without education or sense of right, wrong
By CAROLINE ABBOUD
Special to the WCR
Lebanon was in turmoil and civil war for about a decade as a result of both internal and external problems. Lebanese fought Lebanese, the Muslims backed by Syrians, some Christians backed by Israelis.
Violence was unimaginable at the beginning of 1975. The political climate was electric, but it was hardly believable that that period could lead to so much horror.
All imaginable methods of terror have been used. Cold-blooded and frequent assassinations, murder of civilians, untargeted bombardments, car bombs, etc. As the years passed and as foreign armies interfered in the war, the calibre of weapons increased, the concentration of the fire became more intense and the bombardments were more murderous.
War between the Israeli occupation forces and the Lebanese resistance stamped out any effort to develop job opportunities to raise the standard of living. The war also traumatized people and destroyed almost all infrastructure and property, transforming villages into deserted homes. Only the poorest and most deprived stayed on their land.
Lebanon was the first Arab country to grant women the right to vote in 1953. Since then women have made great strides in improving their status.
Christian Lebanese women moved forward before Muslim women in all fields whether it was education, travelling, fashion, working, positions with the government, etc. They don't wear veils to cover up from head to toe. They are liberated, well-educated and sophisticated.
Despite 17 years of civil war that left 150,000 dead, 435,000 injured and nearly a million refugees within their own country, many Lebanese women successfully protected their natural heritage and helped to restore order in their society.
They were as big a part in the war as the men fighting it. They played the biggest role. They were largely responsible for the subsistence of their families. Women who were displaced to suburbs and villages queued for gas, water and bread while men were forced to stay at home for fear of being kidnapped.
Women left their houses to seek work such as sewing and housekeeping for absentee owners. Many women were keen to be active in the war and to do more than just raise their children. They carried out any jobs that women can do.
The problems and anxieties of the parents are an influence on their children. Although the war in Lebanon has been over for a decade, scars from the war remain, and the economic stagnation that gripped the whole region continues.
This new generation has the right not to be led into the labyrinth of fights, hatred and prejudices of their fathers; they have the right not to be expected to continue the fight of their parents.
The children are the ones who will pay the moral and material bill of these wars.
What will become of this society that is being formed in Lebanon - a society that has no sense of right or wrong, but of what is allowed and what is forbidden?
The man who has lived without a memory of a father considers that some actions are allowed and others are forbidden, but he has no morals. Indeed, the one who lives without the memory of a father cannot have his own morals.
These generations are raised like orphan children who are denied their most intimate right, the right to claim a father.
The new generations are not allowed to measure the tragedy into which their fathers' society had fallen, a tragedy that marked their lives and their world.
Every Lebanese who participated in war keeps within himself the memories of war experiences. Therefore, what hope do we keep for new generations, if we put in the shade the events of recent history, events that brought major changes in their society and oriented their future?
The Lebanese wars forced most of the population to flee their houses, at one time or another, either under bombardments, or the pressure of militias or neighbours. The air, land and sea attacks conducted by the Israeli army against Beirut in 1982, will always leave its trace. Beirut was deprived of water, electricity and other supplies.
Many hostages were taken during these wars - the hostages and their families left for a long time between life and death. Schools were shut down which caused students to learn how to fight instead. Teachers lost their jobs. The war also deprived a large number of families of any source of income. Many homes and churches were damaged or destroyed. Some villages were completely demolished. People had no electricity or water and many people were left homeless.
Christians immigrated more than ever to Europe and America, leaving their hearts with families who stayed behind. Life for Lebanese Christians was very difficult after they became the minority.
Christians suffered the most in Lebanon during the war, especially women who faced all kinds of violence. That is the reason why I'm here today. My family came to Canada in 1980 seeking peace and protection in this beautiful and caring country, my country now, Canada.
The peace we desire for our own region does not preclude our hopes for peace throughout the world, a peace built on justice, equality and affection.
The oppressed, the poor, the refugees, the marginalized, the exiled and those suffering discrimination because of their race, colour or religion must see justice done. We are all brothers and sisters. May God guide and empower us always to strive for that which gives the Almighty glory and serves the good of humanity.