Lebanon: Land of Dialogue Among Civilizations and Cultures (LDC) Initiative
NOTRE DAME UNIVERSITY-LOUAIZE, LEBANON (NDU)
In collaboration with the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (CRVP)
The LDC Initiative was initiated in June 2013 by several prominent and concerned Lebanese businessmen and academics who selected Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) to lead an Initiative devoted to gaining UN recognition of Lebanon as a Land of Dialogue Among Civilizations and Cultures. LDC is housed at NDU and is being implemented by the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, an international academic NGO, centered in Washington, D.C., with major University Centers in Russia, China, and Lebanon.
In his address to the UN General Assembly on the Dialogue between Cultures and Religions (Item 45: Culture and Peace) on November 12th, 2008, His Excellency, President Michel Sleiman, stated that “the philosophy of the Lebanese entity is based on dialogue, reconciliation and coexistence”. He declared that the Lebanese people would like Lebanon to “become an international center for the management of the dialogue of civilizations and cultures and consequently a global laboratory for that inter-entity dialogue”. President Sleiman was motivated by a similar declaration (11 years earlier) when Pope John Paul II declared that Lebanon is “more than a country”; it is a mission of love and conviviality. Much of this vision has also been articulated in the writings of the distinguished Muslim scholar, Ayatollah Muhammad Mahdi Shamseddine, and by Pope Benedict XVI who declared that Lebanon is a message of freedom, a model of pluralism and a special space for dialogue and coexistence of different cultures and religions. These Christian and Muslim declarations have resonated among the various ethnic and religious communities of Lebanon and have been adopted by a majority of them as the ultimate vocation of Lebanon and its people. A powerful expression of this came in September, 2012, during the Muslim-Christian Summit at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerke whereby the convened religious leaders called for the designation of Lebanon as a “space of dialogue among civilizations based on peace and diversity”. Such calls are not simply idealizations of Lebanon’s past or present vocation, but are rooted in facts reaching far back into its history.
In the last century and a half, Lebanon has experienced various socio-political systems that were born out of the womb of suffering and the will of finding peaceful solutions to protect freedom of religion and diversity. The Mutasarrifiyya, the Qaemaqamiya, the 1943 Pact, and the Taëf Agreement are all ingenious examples of this experience and will. Lebanon’s population is composed of eighteen ethno-religious groups (Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and others) and in the last thirty years, has recognized new groups under the law to acknowledge their freedom of religion. Labor migration has added to Lebanon’s religious and ethnic diversity (Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs) that freely practice their faith. This diversity is Lebanon’s great strength and weakness, as its painful modern history attests, and is precisely what makes it worthy of being designated a land of dialogue among civilizations and cultures. In general, Lebanese do not perceive diversity as a threat but rather as an opportunity to be enriched, hence their predisposition to continue and to spearhead this dialogue in the Middle East. The Lebanese people and their struggle to live freely has often been an inspiration and a liberating force for others in the region, and their communities all over the world have been recognized as exemplary by their host countries in terms of promoting dialogue and openness to diversity. Lebanon’s raison d’être is founded on the paradigm of understanding, freedom and conviviality among civilizations and cultures. In spite of the challenges to its vocation, which often times results in tragic failures, the world can still learn much from Lebanon’s historical experiences.
To petition and lobby the United Nations to officially designate Lebanon as a Land of Dialogue Among Civilizations and Cultures, by mobilizing and employing the efforts of the people of Lebanon at home and abroad, as well as the good will of like-minded people around the world.
v To encourage dialogue in the spirit of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights among civilizations and cultures as a contribution to peaceful coexistence among various groups
v To raise public awareness of the spirit and culture of dialogue through the social and print media
v To promote the LDC Initiative among the Lebanese Diaspora, and to benefit from its strong presence and visibility
v To promote the LDC Initiative among like-minded people and organizations around the world
v To create a platform to facilitate international collaborative seminars and research workshops
v To examine a wide range of religious, ethnic, racial and cultural dialogue activities and to disseminate the outcome through publications
v To promote and conduct seminars/courses on Lebanon as a land of dialogue among civilizations and cultures with a particular focus on Muslim-Christian dialogue, emphasizing pontifical writings and the writings of important Muslim thinkers, such as Muhammad Mahdi Shamseddine
v To initiate research projects and conduct seminars/courses that focus on essential elements of the spirit and culture of the Initiative, in cooperation with academic institutions and international organizations
v To support local, regional and international conferences related to the Initiative
v To cooperate with existing local, regional and international organizations and institutions that promote dialogue