Back from NM. Pictures will be posted as soon as they come back from the photo dept. of Wally World. Thanks so much to all who prayed.
Have been trying for the past week or so to get in touch with my godfather, , as he's Lebanese. Many worried prayers (which aren't really prayers at all, I guess, as we are not to pray in such a state) were uttered and a few phone messages left in an attempt to nail down that, no, he was not in the crossfire of the current conflict between Lebanon and Israel. Tonight, God be praised, I got a call back from him.
He'd been in Lebanon just two weeks prior to the inital hostage taking and Israeli response. He was reflective, now, on how beautiful everything seemed while he was there, which only added to the surrealism he is experiencing now. He informed me that another beloved family from the parish was actually in South Lebanon until the third day of bombings, when they were able to get out. God be praised, the checkpoint that prior to their crossing had been backed up with hours of traffic was a cinch for them to get through, and they're now staying with family here in the States.
He laid the blame for all this squarely on the Lebanese government, which, as much as I tend to sympathize with Palestinian/Arabic sentiments of being dispossessed of their homelands by Israel, strikes me as the right take on this. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that, as my godfather said, plays games by building schools, orphanages, hospitals, etc -- which endears them to the Lebanese people -- but they also have rocket launchers that they use (as lackeys under orders from Syria) against Israel. They're the only militia in Lebanon that the government hasn't disarmed (in defiance of UN orders, surprise, surprise), the rationale apparently being, "better the devil you know than the devil you don't." Regardless, why the Lebanese as a whole don't finish the job -- which would entail disarming Hezbollah and cutting them off from government recognition -- is beyond me.
What really was fascinating (as well as assuring) for me to hear from him, though, was his take on how the Israeli attacks are being carried out -- specifically the destinction being made between the Muslim and the Christians. Lebanon is unique among Arab nations (with the possible-but-not-quite-as-exceptional exceptions of Jordan and Egypt) of being nations where the Muslim and Christian Arabs get along and have deep, generations-long friendships with each other, yet Israel understands that all of these Hezbollah-driven attacks are from one source and one source only: Islam. You do not see Orthodox Christian (or Melkite Catholic) suicide bombers; no little altar boys are missing from Sunday Divine Liturgy because they stepped on an Israeli bus and detonated the explosives strapped to their little chests.
(LATER EDIT: This post on the blog of a UK Antiochian priest very much disputes the above paragraph, and for good reason; it's come to light recently that, indeed, Christian sites are being bombed as well as Muslim ones)
Why is this? My godfather, I think, summed it up best when he told me what Metropolitan + PHILLIP of the Antiochian Archdiocese said in the recent clergy symposium regarding this. All we can do, Sayidna said, is be prayerful. "That's just what we do," my godfather said in response to the Metropolitan's advice. What a stark contrast to followers of the "Prophet" who work under orders of jihad and deception to further their cause; we are called to pray, repaying not evil with evil, but attempting to overcome evil with good, and trusting in our God to do this.
(Also, God be praised that there is still a bishop in the southern Lebanese Christian cities that are under the worst of it; my brothers and sisters in Christ will at least have a loving pastor to guide and nourish them with Christ as the Word of God in the Scriptures and the Lamb of God in the Eucharist.)
May God preserve His estate in Lebanon, and may Jerusalem, Beruit, and all other cities know peace soon.