A Dove of Peace from the Mountains of Lebanon

A beautiful voice from the mountains of Lebanon calling for love, peace and religious tolerance, expressed by Lydia Canaan – a Lebanese chanteuse and an artist of great merit – has a poetic resonance that melts the hearts of the most hardened of people.

Lydia, through the medium of her art, has whenever possible fought for the disadvantaged, the poor, the infirm and those in our society who suffer great want and political persecution.

Her art has become the most potent in her armoury and her voice the most soothing when the pain of misery overwhelms the senses.

Lydia, whom I have never physically met but exchanged emails with for the past three years, is a woman driven by powerful romantic impulses that make her vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life and circumstance.

She bubbles with hope and optimism and despite her continual struggle as a recording artist she remains a stalwart of confidence, banishing despair by nurturing her God-given gift for the benefits of her legion of admirers.

I salute her commitment and her multiple endeavours, for in a sense and without much ado I unconsciously feel that she has turned herself into a kindred spirit to those who share her ideals of goodness and aspirations for a better world.

Speaking yesterday in Geneva at the invitation of the Human Rights Council, this is what she had to say – in a speech entitled, ‘Islamophobia and Art’.

In the words of the great British nobleman Bertrand Russell: ‘Most of the greatest evils that man inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.’

Islamophobia is, in all actuality, religiophobia, and its validation feeds off ignorance and isolation. Art is the indelibly effective medium by which to combat it.

Art is a universal language, a mighty bridge that transcends religiosity. It is embraced and appreciated not by adherents, devotees, believers, or converts of any certain sort, but by members of the religion that is Love. Artists of all cultures, nationalities, and religions are, at their most irreducible, kindred spirits, and have more in common internationally than intra-religiously.

Art is non-divisive, all inclusive, and universally accessible. It is the primal and sacred heart of the mind, the DNA-deep instinct to express the human soul and to appreciate and delight in the expressions of others. It is the innate Divine Creative Power with which humanity is endowed.

I was born and raised in Lebanon, a country dictated by war and sectarian violence. Despite atrocities committed at the height of the civil war and the current attempts to ignite religious strife, my experience is that violence and Islamophobia do not overwhelm and dominate the lives of the Lebanese people.

As an Artist and a Humanist interacting with people of different faiths and ethnicities while performing, recording, and touring in Lebanon and supporting the Syrian and Palestinian refugees, I witnessed first-hand hope, faith, compassion, empathy, tolerance and understanding. It is a testimony to the human conscience and a prevailing force to subvert fear in all its unconscious forms. These shadows of the human soul can only be illuminated by the very force that is its antithesis: Love.

Though I am not of the Muslim faith, it is strikingly clear that the very essence of Islam is Peace. There is something to be said for the observant whose religion calls for halting all activity, no matter its seeming importance, in order to pray. There is altruistic value in a religion that fasts an entire month out of the year as a reminder of the suffering of those who are hungry.

Islamophobia is an illusion born of ignorance, a twisted ideology of its own, the political and theological tools of Islamophobes – both non-Muslims and Muslims alike – to mar the true image and essence of the reverent mindfulness that is Islam.

But the very nature of an illusion is the brittleness of its unreality, the weak supports that clumsily balance its inherently defective logic. Hatred has a peculiar sleepiness to it, a confused belligerence. They are as sleepwalkers, as much a horde of the undead as their equally extreme and misguided fundamentalist counterparts. Each are terrorists of the heart!

And as seen painted in blood, sweat, and tears on the separation wall of Palestine, Art is the ultimate weapon in love’s arsenal. Art awakens the heart, and an awakened heart will awaken the mind. It is a weapon that sheds no blood and wreaks no hate. It is the enlightenment of King Solomon; it is two cracking pillars painted on concrete walls that will manifest their crumbling with the trumpet call of love.

There is a stark increase in individual awareness among all people, particularly the youth, to independently seek the truth by seeing past the bombardment of propaganda which we are constantly fed by the media. There is a New Order that is emerging, what is referred to in the I-Ching: Book of Changes as the ‘thunder from beneath’. It is an unstoppable, primal rumbling at our soul’s well bottoms, an irrepressible force of a new era, outer and inner, a tidal wave of truth as peace that begins within each one of us and expands past our rigid individuality and transmutes everything around us into its purest beginnings, returning us to the beginning of All.

Religious intolerance is devoid of love. Let us all return to a state of spiritual innocence so unconscious of itself that it transcends concepts and is experienced only as the ultimate; the spiritual root of all religion, the all-inclusive: Love.

How, then, do we begin this journey back to the Source? How do we regain the lost sense of tribalism that has allowed us to recede into the brutal trap of bigotry? If the lessons of history have not sufficed to warn us of the dangers of exclusionary dogmatism, what, then, can shake us from this aggregated nightmare and open our eyes wide? The paradoxical irony is that unity begins with the individual. We must each look past our often mislead minds, to fearlessly assess the recesses of our own deepest self: the heart. For though the mind can make mistakes, the heart is never mistaken; the heart knows no judgement. So may this be a call to arms: we must fight!  

I would like to end by sharing the lyrics to my song, titled ‘Humanity Wake Up and Fight’.

When you’re beaten to death

And your hope is raped

In the absence of defence

More attacks more raids

When mercy is far away

A plead for help is not near

And justice fades away

You live in constant fear

When you are left without a choice

To have a say or raise a voice

Stand for your right, and shout

Humanity wake up and fight

When violence sets the rules

Hatred starts to breed

With torture and abuse

You fall into defeat

When you’re convicted to pain

Suffering never ends

Faith seems in vain

Cause you don’t have a chance

When you are left without a choice

To have a say or raise a voice

Stand for your right, and shout

Humanity wake up and fight

Come, here is my hand

No no you’re not alone

Your agony will end

Cause not all hearts are made of stone

When you are left without a choice

To have a say or raise a voice

Stand for your right, and shout

Humanity wake up and fight

When you are left without a choice

Have a say, raise your voice

Stand for your right, shout out loud 

Humanity wake up and fight

Humanity wake up and fight

Well done Lydia. I hope your star will shine more brightly than ever before, for your message is a cry for help on behalf of us all.


One response to “A Dove of Peace from the Mountains of Lebanon

  1. I do think that it would be helpful if religious leaders occasionally spoke out to rein in, disown, or chastise those who foment hatred