Many Arab media sites are turning an event at a church that saw a Sunni Lebanese politician in attendance into a big deal. It's barely even getting attention in Lebanon.
A few days ago, Rola Tabsh, an MP serving Beirut under the Future Party, attended a New Year's mass at a Maronite Church. Attending the "peace and love" mass is a common gesture/practice in Lebanon to promote co-existence among the 18 officially recognized religious sects in Lebanon.
خلال مشاركتي بقداس عيد السلام بدعوة من جماعة رسالة حياة في دير الحياة الجديدة - أنطلياس. pic.twitter.com/vrC6CK5t4e— Rola Tabsh رولا الطبش جارودي (@Rolatabshmp) January 1, 2019
Tabsh received a blessing from the priest presiding over the mass.
This was apparently enough to cause a "vicious social media brawl" as Gulf News called it. This is basically an overly exaggerated term for 3 angry people, most likely unemployed and have too much time on their hands, sharing their opinion on Twitter.
No one should be attacked for it or be forced to apologize for it and "prove" they're still faithful to their religion. Rola Tabsh went to Dar al-Fatwa a couple days afterwards to apologize and "prove" she's still Muslim.
What kind of person gets angry at someone attending an event aimed at promoting "peace and love"?
Muslims attending masses and Christian services, as well as Christians attending Muslim services held at mosques, is normal in Lebanon. Especially for events and especially for politicians and religious leaders.
When there were a series of assassinations over 10 years ago, we saw politicians and religious leaders attending funerals in churches and mosques to pay their respects. For the "average" person, Christians are invited to Muslim weddings and Muslims are invited to Christian weddings.
This is not only in Lebanon but also among the Lebanese communities abroad. When there was a ceremonial mass in Montreal for the new Maronite bishop of Canada, one of the most prominent sheikhs and religious leaders of the Lebanese Muslim community were in attendance of the mass. And even sat in the front row.
It seems pathetic that we need to even justify/explain this.
When someone wishes me, as a Maronite Christian, Eid Mubarak at the end of Ramadan, do I get offended? Of course not. On the contrary. If it means so much to that person, and it's close to their heart, and they are sharing that with me, I feel honored. I appreciate it. Same thing when a Christian person wishes a Muslim person a Merry Christmas. The usual response is "Merry Christmas to you too" or "thank you".
On that note, it's not unusual to have Lebanese Muslim families celebrating Christmas (not the same way of course) by putting up Christmas trees and exchanging gifts. We see predominantly Muslim villages and cities in Lebanon decorate for Christmas and often compete for the best Christmas decorations and celebrations.
Lebanese Christians and Muslims have been living side by side in Lebanon for centuries. Yes, there have been a few hiccups here and there - mostly due to imported politics, ideologies, and powers. But we have learned to live together. No attempts, such as this event, at promoting "peace and love" as well as coexistence should come under attack.
The most used picture of Lebanon, both in the country and abroad, is literally the cliche image of the Mohammad al-Amin mosque and Saint George Maronite Cathedral side by side in downtown. Literally the featured image we used for this article.
If these events offend you, you should look into the mirror and rethink your mentality and ideology. If such gestures of peace threaten your faith/ideology/religion, you need to further examine your own insecurity in your faith.
And if you can't deal with it, there's a place just across the border that shares that mentality and would happily accept you. But a heads up, your life expectancy won't be that long over there.
Lebanon is unique in that sense. We have moderates across the board. We can live side by side and share each other's holidays and blessings. This is a lesson of not just tolerance but also coexistence. This not only applies to the Arab world but also the West.
We don't feel threatened when a Muslim family moves in next to us and we don't get offended when someone wishes us (or doesn't wish us) a Merry Christmas.
Get over it.
Follow Anthony on Instagram at @anthonykantara