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New York Encounter 2014: Peace and Solidarity among Muslims and Christians is Truly Possible

NYE AVSI Booth New York, New York – As the international community in Geneva continues to rely on a never ending series of intergovernmental discussions to solve the Syrian crisis, and while it also continues to turn a blind eye to the violence and persecution affecting the Christian community both in Syria and around the world, AVSI-USA presented a short film at the New York Encounter that gave witness to the concrete experience of peace and solidarity already being lived out by Muslims and Christians in the Syrian Refugee camp of Marj El Khok in Lebanon. The film was shown as part of the event titled, “Hoping Against Hope” which featured a panel discussion with Fr. Samir Khalil, a humble and deeply respected Jesuit scholar in close relationship with Sunni and Shiite groups in the Middle east and beyond.

Fr. Samir spoke on the prospects for overcoming hatred and division between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and related his own experience of working with people and within communities where peace is already part of daily life. With these communities in mind, AVSI’s film focused on the day of prayer requested by Pope Francis on September 7th, 2013. It highlighted the experience of a community of Muslim and Christian refugees from Syria living in Lebanon. Along with other Lebanese residents, they came together at the refugee camp in Marj El Khok to pray for peace in solidarity with the Pope and the global community. AVSI has been present in Lebanon for almost 20 years and has worked hard to help communities from different religious backgrounds come together through educational, agricultural, and other socio-economic development programs and activities like those at the Marj el Khok camp.

The film fit perfectly within the theme of the New York Encounter this year, “From ‘I’ to ‘We’: the Time of the Person, the Origins of a People” by showing the way in which Muslims and Christians have found common ground in the camp through common works and activities and support one another in authentic acts of solidarity.NYE Sandri Marj El Kok 260x190 12714

Marj El Kok was also visited recently in January by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation of the Oriental Church, who was traveling from the recent episcopal consecration of the new Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Monsignor Georges Abou Khazen. Cardinal Sandri came to the camp to show his support for the show his closeness to the Muslim and Christian refugees living there and to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Christians that continue to leave Syria in search of safety.

In addition to the film, AVSI-USA set up a promotional booth that became a point of encounter not only for visitors and supporters from across the US but also for volunteers. Volunteers offered their time during the NYE to learn more about AVSI-USA’s work and to explain that work to attendees that were curious about the projects and activities that AVSI-USA supports in different countries throughout the world. Volunteers collected donations at the booth in exchange for hand-made bags fashioned by the women of Crecemos in Oaxaca, Mexico and for necklaces made by women in Kireka, Uganda that belong to Meeting Point International in Kampala. In total, nearly $1,000 was raised and will go to directly support the projects at these organizations in the coming months.

New York Encounter is an annual free three-day public cultural festival centered around fascinating presentations, artistic performances, conferences, exhibits and information booths introducing a variety of charitable, cultural, and work-related initiatives.

Organized by members of the Catholic movement Communion and Liberation and by the Crossroads Cultural Center, NYE strives to witness to the new life and knowledge generated by the faith, following Pope Benedict's claim that "the intelligence of faith has to become the intelligence of reality."



Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: The School of Life in Marj El Khokh Camp