Lebanon: Ain Ebel, school for children of all religions

01 February, 18:02

The catholic institute in Ain Ebel. The catholic institute in Ain Ebel.

(ANSAmed) - AIN EBEL (LEBANON) - Lebanon is a mission, said Paul John II. And in the deep south, in Ain Ebel, a few kilometres from the Israeli border, a nun of the order of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, sister Josephine Nasr, is fighting her ''battle'' to offer serenity and security to the young students at her school, teaching them to respect others and to respect diversity. Religious diversity first of all, because the 800 students of the Saint Joseph College include Shiites and Christians, mainly from the Greek-Catholic rite. Sister Nasr arrived in Ain Ebel, in the mountains in the south, as volunteer, one year after the end of the conflict with Israel, to direct the school with students of all age groups (from nursery school to high school). ''During those terrible 33 days of conflict, in 2006, the school was heavily damaged,'' the director tells. ''Those were hard times. The director who held the office before me decided to leave when she started suffering from a deep depression, and to return to the mother house." In 2007, sister Josephine volunteered to take the job. ''My goal was to make the students smile again. The school is located in a very poor area. After the war, the richest families left the region." Ain Ebel is located a few kilometres from Beint Jbail, where the Israeli army was brought to a halt in the summer of 2006. Ain Ebel was besieged for 16 days. ''Every day'', she continues, ''I waited for the children at the school's entrance with a smile on my face. I did that to calm the youngest students and to make them want to play, forgetting those moments." Students visit the school from 19 nearby villages. The area is mainly agricultural, with olives, almonds, grapevines, chestnuts and walnut groves.

There are only four Christian villages, the director points out, "Rumaysh, Yaroun (where also Muslims are living), Debel and Al Qawzah. But the different religions play no role once the children are inside the school. ''Each class houses around thirty students, some even more. There are 76 teachers, four of them religious,'' sister Josephine specifies. The students study Arabic, French and English. ''The institute is partly private and partly financed by the State. But we haven't received any money from the State since the end of the conflict,'' the director underlines. ''The best things we have in this school are the result of donations,'' she explains. Like the library that was created thanks to a Cimic project (civilian-military cooperation) of the Italian UNIFIL contingent in Lebanon.

''Italy has helped us a lot. We are really grateful for that." The project, not completed yet, has cost 18 thousand euros. ''On February 6 the library should be ready for its opening,'' the sister says with joy. Sister Josephine has studied pedagogy at the University of Beirut but was born in Bekaa. She took the vows at the age of 16, and has dedicated herself to her Lebanon ever since.

Christians, she points out, should not leave Lebanon ''because they are the roots of this country." Her words hold a message of hope and faith, as well as respect for all religions. The relations with Hezbollah are good too, she said. ''In fact, they support our activities." But fears that things will get out of hand are always there, particularly in the neighbouring Syria. ''If Assad steps down, it would mean the end for us. Christians in Lebanon are afraid the situation will get much worse." But at the moment, after six years and a lot of hard work, the children of the Saint Joseph collage are smiling. (ANSAmed). Y96

© Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved

Business opportunities

The information system of business
opportunities abroad

News from Mediterranean