Amid the turmoil in the Middle East and persecution of Christians in surrounding countries, the Christmas spirit is evident in Lebanon: sparkling lights, decorated trees and even mangers in public places.
“Wherever you go you can find Christmas decorations,” even in the cities and the places where the residents are Muslim, Maronite Fr Joseph Soueid told Catholic News Service.
“I feel that here in Lebanon, we have this grace, that really, Jesus is the reason for the season,” said the parish priest of St Takla Parish, which serves 6,850 Maronite Catholic families. With seating for just 280 people, the church overflows with the faithful for each of its eight Masses on Sundays and has generated 24 vocations in the past eight years. Its outdoor manger near the entrance to the church is just a few steps away from a busy street intersection.
Fr Soueid noted that because most of the municipalities in Lebanon are a mix of Christian and Muslim, the influence of Christianity gives the Lebanese an opportunity to “make this season a season of joy.”
Muslims have also attended and continue to attend Christian schools in Lebanon. So it follows that “when they grew up, they found themselves familiar with our traditions and with the way we celebrate our great celebrations, like Christmas, like Easter,” Fr Soueid said.
Picture: A life-size manger scene decorates a busy intersection in Beirut. Amid the turmoil in the Middle East and persecution of Christians in surrounding countries, the Christmas spirit is evident in Lebanon: sparkling lights, decorated trees and even mangers in public places. (CNS photo/Johnny Antoun).