The Lebanon is part of the Middle East. It has eighteen different religious communities. In the little more than the 10,000 square kilometres that are the Lebanon, our destiny as well as our choice is to live together. The Lebanon is a special case in the Middle East, in the sense that it is a free country with a free press, a free economy and free speech. Because of the multiplicity of communities it cannot survive without this freedom, and in particular freedom of religion, not only at the level of belief but also as regards the open and free practice of religion.
The Lebanon is a human laboratory where religious social scientists are eager to prove that it is possible for a plural society, for a multi-religious society, to work. It is in the Lebanon that pluralism is accredited as a future way of life where people can live in diversity with respect, harmony and love, and can build one nation where the rights of the individual as well as the rights of the communities are recognised in the Constitution and in the national polis. Sometimes we do not succeed but most of the time we do. Success here is a daily challenge. It is a way of life: our way of life.
We believe that our small country of four million people is entitled to play a major and important role in the creation of a more harmonious and peaceful Middle East, and in trying to prove that a plural society can survive and flourish. There is no future for the Middle East without the Lebanon. The success of the Lebanese way of life is extremely important not only for the Lebanese but also for all the peoples of the Middle East: Christians, Muslims and Jews, Arabs, Kurds and Berbers.
It is only through dialogue that such a dream can become reality. I believe that dialogue is the art of searching for truth from the point of view of other people. To be different does not mean to be 'against' or to be 'anti'. Differences in opinion, cultures, religions, races, languages and so forth are part of the human heritage and they also are expressions of God's greatness as a Creator. We have to accept and to respects all these differences just as we believe in God and respect His will.
Truth is not on one side. To believe that you are right does not mean that other people are necessarily wrong. There are many forms of dialogue.
A) There is dialogue of life, which means to take care of other people and to understand their background, to recognise their special characteristics and then to build a common life with them on the basis of understanding, recognition and respect.
B) There is dialogue of action, which means to work together socially, economically and educationally. This helps in building relations on the basis of intertwined interests.
C) There is dialogue of discussion, not with the intention of uniting religion but making it transparent to others and revealing common factors in morals and ethics.
D) There is dialogue of experiences, including religious experiences, but not with the intention of worshipping God like other people but of realising the fact that it is possible to worship God, the same God, differently.
Religious and national education should focus on the need to disengage historical conflicts from religious ethics and day-to-day politics from the everlasting foundations of common belief. We believe that the Lebanon can play a constructive role in this field. We do not want our country to be simply another one of the many countries of the Middle East. The Lebanon is at the core of the message of tolerance, mutual respect and co-existence between Christian and Muslim confessions. Any injury to this message, either from within or from outside, is an injury to a human message, an injury to humanity. This message is needed not only to safeguard Lebanese national unity. It is also needed as a basis for Arab-Moslem-Christian dialogue, which in turn forms the axis for improved Christian-Muslim understanding at an international level.
The future of humanity is not, and should not be, based on a conflict of civilisations but rather on a complementary dialogue of civilisations, that role that the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are each supposed to play. In our global village, lessons should be drawn as quickly as possible from the experiences of others, whether these experiences are positive or negative: from the Lebanon to Bosnia, from Afghanistan to Somalia, from Chechnya to South Africa, and from Northern Ireland to Corsica and on to the land of the Basques in Spain.
Consequently, we should be able to launch a challenge by answering the question: do we want to make a point or do we want to make a difference? If we want to score points, no one is perfect. If we want to make a difference, at least a difference for peace and life together, then we should remember that peace, namely prosperity and development, means never having it all your own way.