Learning from the Other by X., Lebanon

I’m a Lebanese guy whose country has been affected by wars where every difference, either religious or political, has led, at some point, to violent conflict. Therefore, all my childhood experiences are related to the violence in our country and the region. Because of this, I started a rebellion against everything and went out to change the world. Back then, changing the world was a very specific goal that seemed to be very simple: convert everybody and “enlighten” their life. So I was preaching my only truth – expressed by my religion and my political party – this was my stupid “innovative” solution: a single identity. With time, I believe that “God – whom I believe in” offered me many learning opportunities. At first, I was focusing on the outside. I used to work on linking between what I am learning and how I can use this knowledge to convince “the other.” I was lost. I totally forgot myself, my inner self. I was afraid to listen. In 2005, the Lebanese revolution against the Syrian occupation began. I witnessed how together, people from different identities and faiths, Christians, Muslims, and others, left and right, religious and non-religious… succeeded in achieving in 30 days what one party in Lebanon was seeking for 30 years. So I took some time for myself and I decided to listen. One major thing that changed the way I perceive things today is the realization that there is not one truth in the world, not one way to see or do things. Yes, I wanted to change the world, yes I could not, but what really happened is that I changed myself. I am more open, more modest, eager to learn, and more appreciative of the diverse truths that exist in this world. This self-changing made me a true “Christian – as I believe”, and enlightened my relationship with my church and with God. I broke many walls that were built between me and the “other”, walls of fear, and made them bridges, bridges of life, communication, and reconciliation. I also strongly believe in interdependence – no nation can exist alone and without the help and support of the other, in mutual respect. No armies, walls, or weapons of mass destruction can bring safety, freedom, or security to any nation. Only peace can do it! In our Lebanese culture, I have learned a very interesting popular proverb: “Heaven without people is unlivable”, so let alone our earthly life. Now, with Professor Leonard Swidler’s great line: “Nobody knows everything about anything”, I know that people and people’s diversity are part of what makes life worth living… “Learning-from-the-other” is one of my greatest beliefs. I have now come to peace with my identity; every bit of it. I belong to humanity first, and secondly I am a Lebanese Arab Christian inoculated with lots of Islamic traditions, Jewish belief, Maronite modesty, American nobility, European structure, and a youthful spirit… I have the conviction now that my Identity is being shaped every moment with each person I meet and the ideas I am exposed to. I am an ongoing transformation, and I have embraced that fact.

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