BEIRUT: Every week seems an assault on reconciliation as demonstrated by the recent political developments and terror attacks across the globe. In the US, President Donald Trump has signed an executive order banning travel by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim-countries to the United States. In Quebec, a French Canadian university student, known for his far-right and nationalist views, has shot dead six Muslim men during evening prayers at a mosque. Across the Middle East, minority Christians groups are being persecuted by the Islamic State and other radical Islamists.
These unfortunate events invite people of all backgrounds to engage in dialogue so that confidence and fraternity may reign again among nations of different cultures and traditions.
This is exactly the message that the Taizé community is trying to convey to the world. Taize is a small village in Burgundy, France, that is home to over 100 monks from more than thirty countries and various Churches.
The ecumenical monastic order, which aims to bridge the gap between divided Christians and people of different backgrounds, was founded in 1940 by Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche, also known as Brother Roger.
In 1980, Brother Roger founded a pilgrimage movement to promote peace and justice through prayer and meditation.
The movement soon became known as the "Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth," and each year, hundreds of youth flock to a European city to share the local community's way of life and become promoters of peace and trust in their towns, villages, and communities.
This year, I had the opportunity to take part in the 39th meeting which took place in Riga, the capital of Latvia from December 28, 2016, to January 1, 2017. The meeting was an invitation to all Christians -- Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants -- to journey together through prayer, silence and reflection in order to rediscover the meaning of life.
15,000 young adults from Europe and other continents came together to experience friendship, trust, and hope; knowing that friendship is one precursor to peace and peace is one path of hope.
Today, the Middle East and Lebanon are receiving special attention from the Taize community and two brothers, Maxime and Jean-Jacques, were given the responsibility to pay this region frequent visits to establish bonds with the different Churches in preparation for a "Pilgrimage of Trust" to the region.
It is in this region of the world that God had sent his Son to give man eternal life and where the first disciples of Christ were called Christians. Christianity represented an important aspect of the region's culture, in particular, Lebanon, where the religious mosaic of 18 officially recognized sects constitute both a cultural wealth and a challenge, as each community strives to understand the other.
The religiously heterogeneous and diversified Lebanese society prompted late Pope Jean Paul II to describe Lebanon as "a message of coexistence and unity."
"As for the beloved land of Lebanon, to which the hearts of believers longingly turn, I hope that it will continue to remain faithful to its vocation as a Message: a place where Christians can live in peace and brotherhood with the followers of other beliefs and can foster this form of coexistence," the late Pope said in 1995.
As the only Lebanese and Arabic-speaking participant in this year's meeting, I was asked during one of the workshops to translate for Iraqi refugees who had joined us from France where they have been welcomed by the Taize community.
One cannot describe the joy and hope that this family expressed because France had offered them a place to stay, to enroll their children in school and become an integral part of the country's social fabric.
I strongly believe that Providence wanted me to be part of this year's meeting to deliver a message, that people around the world, are continuously invited to engage in dialogue and collaborate for a better future; a future where Christians, Muslims and other religious communities live together in peace and mutual respect.
If it weren't for the collaboration of the different Churches, the hospitality of local host families and above all the faith of pilgrims, the success of this year's "Pilgrimage of Trust" wouldn't have been possible.
The world is invited to follow suit and join hands for the good of mankind.
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