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“And where are you?” The Franciscan Hike in Lebanon

This year the traditional summer Franciscan hike brought together Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi youth. Despite the region’s hardships, these young people had the opportunity of experiencing a time to help them become more rooted in the faith.

Seeking an answer to this question, this year 98 youth took part in the Franciscan hike. The hike began in Zahle in the Beqaa Valley region, and they then proceeded to the St. Francis Monastery of the Conventual Friars in Nakkash; they then went north of Beirut to the Convent of the Franciscan Sisters. The hike ended with a solemn mass presided over by Fr. Simon Herro, OFM, the Regional Minister, that was concelebrated with the provincial superiors of the Capuchins and of the Lebanese Conventual friars.

“And where are you?”
Forty Lebanese youth from across Lebanon, with forty young Syrians from Damascus, Aleppo and Latakyeh, as well as seven young Iraqis who have found refuge in Lebanon and who are natives of Qaraqosh, gathered to share the simplicity of life and Franciscan spirituality . They were accompanied by three Friars Minor of the Custody of the Holy Land, four Capuchins and three sisters from different Franciscan families in Lebanon.
The main purpose of the hike was to help these young people come to terms with their past, to better live out the present and to enjoy the grace of the moment, as well as to look with hope to the future despite the hardships of each day.

“And where are you?”
This is not a simple question, but rather it is the reality experienced by our young people, in order for them to be faced with their responsibilities in a country torn apart by war and hatred, inviting them to be a sign and a witness in the world today. This is the indirect purpose of the hike: to help our youth get away from the stress of every day, and to look at reality with a certain detachment, as well as to seek to understand it and to better manage it:

• For the Lebanese, this means accepting others as a gift from God, and with them, being able to experience brotherhood within the minority.
• For the Syrians, it means accepting the challenges of each day and being a sign of hope.
• For the Iraqis, it means accepting their new living conditions, and fighting to overcome the wounded memory of the past.

At first, we thought we would encounter difficulties in carrying out this project, but all along the way, sharing their tiredness each day (we hiked for 84 kilometers), the youth proved themselves to be generous in both their willingness to help others as well as in their openness to others, and they have lived out their human, social and spiritual formation.

Daily talks were led by several brothers of the Custody, both Conventual friars and Capuchins. Former drug addicts living at the Zahle care center, including a young Muslim woman who was baptized, also shared their witnesses. Another witness was shared by the head of a missionary group in Beirut. He encouraged young people to bring the Good News of the Gospel to all people and to be proud of their baptism.

After the hike, the youth returned to their parishes, carrying an answer in their hearts, as well as a question to ask other young people: And where are you?

Congratulations and we will meet again for the next hike, which will be held from August 4 to 11, 2016.

Br. Toufic Bou Mehri, OFM

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