Lebanese join Jews for peace
The South African Lebanese community has joined forces with concerned local Jews in condemning Israeli military action in Lebanon by releasing a joint petition for peace.
“Everyone is in favour of stopping the war as it is destroying Lebanon completely,” declared Father Nadim Abu Zaid, of the Johannesburg-based Maronite Catholic Church in Woodmead, where most of the signatures were collected earlier this week. “We are all saying no more killing of children and civilians in Lebanon.”
Abu Zaid said that although most of the roughly 30 000 Lebanese in the country were Christian, the petition is supported by Lebanese across religious backgrounds. “Itâ€™s the country of their origin, where their roots, families and relatives are, so they feel historically, emotionally and physically tied to their mother country,” he said.
Pete Sadie, a South African Lebanese who initiated the drafting of the petition, said: “I saw the Jewish one in the Mail & Guardian two weeks ago and I thought, ‘Why are we [Lebanese] not doing anything about it?â€™ A lot of us were concerned so we needed one that expressed our perspective in a similar way to the Jewish one.”
This week the Maronite churchâ€™s Wednesday prayer service was attended by people from a cross section of faiths and presided over by an imam, a rabbi as well as a priest (Abu Zaid). “There are very few places where this is taking place in the world,” said Michael Sadie, a deacon at the Maronite Church. “Because we fought a common enemy which was apartheid, there is that common interest in South Africa where faith is not the major divider.”
Sadie said the initiative had happened more or less spontaneously, out of a desire to add local voices to the international chorus of opposition.
Vincent Leicher, another Lebanese businessman, said he believed the petition did not run the risk of damaging good relations between the local Jewish and Lebanese communities because it merely reflected that the amount of force Israel had used was far in excess of what was called for.
Pat Sidley, who was involved in drafting the Jewish petition, said that many sectors of the local community were still opposed to the petition.