Several Days at the UN – Geneva

severaldays.1[UN-NGO] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) held a Forum on Minority Issues on November 26 – 27, 2013.  The theme was, “Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities.”  OIDEL (International Organization for the Right to Education and the Freedom of Education) organized a parallel event on the “Promotion of Religious Identity and Social Cohesion”.

The Education Office of the Daughters of Charity in Lebanon (committee for ongoing formation for teachers and information) was invited to give a presentation.  Our intervention was centered on “education for life with a focus other than religion”, and the educational establishments of the Company in this country.  We began by presenting the geographic locations of our institutions (18) and the number of students (12,652).  With a great majority of Muslim students in certain places we explained how our education prepares for them for adulthood.

1. In three institutions concerned with this reality (Ras-Beyrouth 93,9% – Mreiji 99,8 % – Rmeileh 85,4 %) religious cultural education is done by:

  • Mutual understanding of the feasts proper to two religions (classroom panels, decorations at school including for Christmas…) These activities are done by all students.
  • Christians have catechism class at 7 in the morning before classes and on Fridays classes are finished at 1:30 instead of 2:30 to allow Muslims to go to pray at their mosque.
  • The project of the institution specifies the most important issue: amiability in the contacts between students of different religious and political views.

2. Common Vincentian Projects:

  • In 3 establishments where there is the work “Resto du Cœur”, a free lunch is offered to elderly persons and the students participate by giving donations.
  • Students from all persuasions offer food to the underprivileged at Christmastime.

3. Good relations with former students exist in almost all our institutions.  In Ras-Beruit (93.9% Muslim) there are these activities:

  • a dinner during the Ramadan fast
  • projects to give educational assistance
  • a communication network with former students abroad
  • former students come to talk about going to university or their professional life to students in secondary school aged 15-17 ; this helps to introduce professions
  • others come to share about their married life.

And from these friendly relationships the NGO “Offre Joie” was started.  This group of young Christians and Muslims work to rebuild the areas destroyed by war or other attacks…

In conclusion, the fact that 60% of our former students send their children to our institutions proves that they appreciate this type of education.  They say that our education respects their religious and philosophical beliefs and offers their children an opportunity to live differently.

This drawing of twins, students at Ras-Beruit, affirms what was said above !  (caption)

If we enjoyed being able to share our experience it was because, by the Forum, we could share the suffering of those who are mistreated because they are of a religious or ethnic minority, or because their philosophical convictions are not met. The Forum was attended by a large number of participants from all parts of the world. It allowed everyone to express themselves and tell of their suffering. Until it is heard by the UN authorities, their suffering sounded in our hearts to feed the prayer of our two communities who met in Geneva for the Triduum 2013. May the Lord help us to be witnesses of his universal love without distinction of race or beliefs.

 Sister Marcelle Karam of Beirut and Sister Monique Javouhey of Geneva

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