Antoine Messarra (dir.), Monitoring
Civil Peace and Memory in Lebanon (from the Remembrance of War to a
Peace Culture), Beirut, Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace,
in cooperation with Ayia Napa Conference Center-Cyprus and the Konrad
Adenauer Foundation, Librairie Orientale, 2004, 656 p. (in Arabic, with
French and English syntheses).
April 13: Forgetting, but Remembering Still
The work published by the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil
Peace is both a fundamental and practical reference that helps build
collective memory in the light of shared experiences and suffering
during the 1975-1990 wars in Lebanon ( Monitoring Civil Peace and Memory in lebanon , dir. Antoine Messarra, Librairie Orientale, 2004, 656 p.).
On the cover one can see the huge petition signed during the war
years in Lebanon by thousands of Lebanese; it is both a symbol of civil
resistance and a “peace pact”. Two interviews have been carried out with
Issam Khalifé and Amale Dibo about the history of this streamer that
should be, according to the authors, shown at the National Museum or in a
“Museum of the Memory in Lebanon ”. It quotes the Apostolic
exhortation: “One should, above all, keep alive the memory of what has
happened in order to prevent it from ever happening again.” (no 114).
The work includes the yearly reports of the programme “Monitoring
Civil Peace and Memory in Lebanon ” (Tony Atallah) which was started in
1999 by the foundation. It also includes the proceedings of five
seminars organized between 1999 and 2003 with the participation of 48
members of the Programme, academics, researchers, journalists and social
The work offers both theoretical and practical approaches to the issue of memory. By determining “ conflicts that are more of a civil war or that are exploited as such ”, the programme establishes a ” Grid of 90 indicators of the Lebanese coexistence pact ”. The starting point was this controversial question: “ Is
history sorted as a human science? Or is it human by its content in a
way that it is not limited to the study of rulers – often killers – but
studies also those killed and are victims ?”
Who is this work mainly aimed at? Professor Antoine Messarra writes in the introduction: “ How
can we protect and guard the Lebanese rising generation against other
internecine wars that are exploited or manipulated for regional as well
as international stakes ?”
“ A fundamental problem for the young born in the aftermath of
war or at the time of pacification. Are we still going to learn history
by reproducing ideologies or behaviors or conflict –based policies? Or
are we at last – after over five centuries of conflicts and consensus –
going to learn from history that uses the lessons of the past in order
to develop a national memory ?
“ To go from the rememberance of war to a peace culture, we
need national contrition with the help of accountable historians that
delve into history in terms of cost and profit seen from the people as
they are the ones who are victimized, suffer, react and struggle. ”
Four types of memory
The work underlines four types of ways people have of remembering:
- Memory based on guilt : based on a real or amplified
historic fact, “others” are accused; history is exploited to hide
injustice and find oneself innocent, sue – after decades – far and dying
culprits in order to stir hatred. Those that seek so much to find
others guilty are eventually found guilty after trying to preserve a
“pure” identity and absolute “innocence”.
- Memory based on conflict : under the cover of historical
science, some historians use the verb “to kill” just about anywhere
looking for any skirmish in any remote area to remind all those tempted
to forget that conflicting identities are meant to continue fighting and
the compromise and cross cultures are a mere illusion.
- Memory based in blockage : The trauma caused by
suffering or exodus remains vivid in a sickly manner and in politics it
confines people to their past unable to see better days without
necessarily denying their heritage.
- Memory based on contrition and solidarity : historical
ethics go beyond history as a reduced science. History is not about
turning the knife in old wounds; it should rather be about real
- civil resistance,
- moral support of people despite the war,
- solidarity facing the war,
- commitments in favor of peace,
- courage and hope despite constraining conditions,
- the cost of conflicts and the yield of solidarity.
The work shows that “one should forget, but remember still”
(Marie-Thérèse Khair Badawi); the new history curricula must be
re-activated since they were conceived to create a “memory based on
solidarity and contrition”, under the direction of Professor Munir Abou
Asly in the years 1999-2000 and published in the Gazette (Decree no
3175, June 8, 2000, Gazette no 27, 26/6/2000, p. 2114-2195); mourning
rites and memorials must be set up namely in the City center for those
lost from all regions, communities, allegiances and non-allegiances to
signify common suffering.
The programme “Monitoring Civil Peace and Memory” continues its activities hoping to thrive and expand.