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    The Temple and the Playground

    This is a typical story in Lebanon. It is unfolding in our cities and villages with superstitious and materialistic people partaking in collective madness.

    The story takes place in “Kfar Kefir”, a village in Lebanon, home of a well established community.
    At a certain moment in time, an influential man in “Kfar kefir”, along with a religious leader, suggested the village needed a new church building: The current modest sized 200 year old church couldn’t handle the rush of worshipers during a yearly 3 day long feast, they argued. 
    An irrefutable argument. Who would disagree?!

    How things went after this first revelation is predictable: enthusiastic people, drafts of the structure, contributions from here and there, preachers calling for believers’ donations… the heavenly project was on track.

    Sensible people questioned the expansion. Since the usefulness of the project was not open for discussion in the eyes of the believers, they had to base their arguments on financial grounds: For all the goodwill and generosity it engendered, the project was simply unaffordable. The retort to those skeptics was invariably a confident “Allah bi dabbir”. 

    The skeptics tried to promote other inexpensive projects of smaller scale and greater usefulness in an attempt to negotiate with the frenzied community. However, none of those projects were supported. People would not contribute to education, to reforestation, or even to a wastewater treatment plant to clean their river; they needed something more spiritual, more “transcending”: a reinforced concrete structure for worship… 

    The “Allah bi dabbir” wound up being a perpetual campaign of mendicancy that ended up draining the resources away from social activities within the community. Despite the generous donations and goodwill, money gathered was never enough to get that ‘thing’ done. Both God and the construction company were in constant need of more means and the “divine” project was put on hold indefinitely. 

    In liberal societies of pragmatic thinkers, that money could be spent on the promotion of rural development, the reversal of urban migration and the reduction of inequality. Alas, in the real world of our society, the money was spent on replacing the warm village playground with a cold structure of concrete and steel, doomed for an eternal state of incompletion. 

    Ten years later, “Kfar Kefir” is still without a playground. For two generations, the old playground was at the heart of the village and its community. In a quiet and subdued way, the playground has helped foster a close knit community. People were friendlier, ties were stronger…. Not anymore! The new generation missed the opportunity to play football in the playground, to interact and socialize. In reality the botched project worsened the quality of life in “Kfar Kefir”. Fewer families visit for the weekend, since football is no longer an option for the children. Businesses suffer. Nowadays, it is common to see the Young of “kfar Kefir” loitering in the shade of the unfinished grey structure, smoking at times, driving scooters recklessly, damaging properties… Deprived of the playground and a sport field, it is not surprising that the frustrated Young of “Kfar Kefir” grow up to be less than exemplary citizens.

    To deem a playground more valuable for the community than a larger church building is no atheistic or idealistic fantasy, it is mere common sense. The chronic lack of common sense, worsened by inter-sectarian competition that has marred our country for many years, lead to millions of dollars worth of wasted resources. Not only has it inflicted a tremendous financial burden, it damaged our aesthetic sensibility and eroded our sense of civic responsibility.

    Religious practices are meant to bring the community together in fellowship, rather they have been manipulated to create disharmony in the name of religiosity.

    While religious institutions in Europe evolved somehow, driven by the advance of democracy, justice and economic prosperity, religious institutions in Lebanon are still drowning in materialism and superstitions. They need an impetus to reinvent themselves in a spirit true to their mission and values in order to preserve their purpose and social relevancy.

    One response to “The Temple and the Playground”

    1. Rayan B. says:

      Rami this is one great article, but I believe the last paragraph is just golden!
      I think you said it all, and anything I add would just be rephrasing :-)

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