As if time had stood still – images of Arafat from his younger years, the presence of the Nakba in the narratives (in Arabic, the fleeing and expulsion of some 700,000 Arab Palestinians between 1947 and 1949 from the former British Mandate territory of Palestine), …
... the keys to the former houses in today’s Israel kept as a sign of hope to return there one day and the memory of the massacre of Lebanese, Maronite-Catholic militiamen under the eyes of the Israeli army in September 1982 at this place where between 460 and 3000 (the figures vary) mostly civilians, among them many women, children and old people were murdered in a cruel way – this is what I encountered a week ago in the Palestinian refugee camp Shatila in the south of Beirut.
A somber atmosphere with little hope. Over the years, the refugee camp has developed into a district of Beirut with its own infrastructure and permanent, multi-story apartment buildings. We visited the projects of Sylvia Haddad, director of the Joint Christian Committee (JCC). A Palestinian herself and now over 70 years old, she has been committed to helping Palestinian refugees for many years. In Shatila, JCC maintains a small elementary school, training facilities in the IT sector and to become a beautician or hairdresser. At least for these young people there is a little hope for a better future in their lives.
The program of the 5 colleagues from the Kurhessen-Waldeck, the Hessen-Nassau and Württemberg Churches who are currently on a sabbatical at the Near East School for Theology (NEST) in Beirut includes not only the study of Islam and the diverse Christian denominations in the Near and Middle East, but also regular exposure programs to monasteries and bishoprics of the various denominations, meetings with Muslim clergy and visits to local projects. In this context, last Monday the visit to the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila took place.