Chaftari, an engineer, held senior rank in one of the Christian
militias during the civil war in Lebanon. "I was brought up in a Christian belief and environment. What I knew about politics
was enough for me: the Christians made Lebanon. They had
to protect their prerogatives. The Muslims were a danger.
When in 1975 the first bullets were fired, it was natural
for me to enrol in the Christian militias. I was motivated
by prejudice, then by fear. Hatred came later during the
war. It came with the destruction around me and death of
fellow fighters and friends."
Through becoming involved in a dialogue between Christians
and Muslims eleven years ago, his views gradually changed. "I
discovered the other Lebanese, our partners, the way they really
are. I learnt that we are all equals: Christians, Muslims,
Arabs, black and white. I know now the importance of a human
life. Nothing political is important enough to kill a human
being or cause him harm."
In February this year he concluded that the time had come to
make a public apology through the press for what he had done
in the name of 'country' or 'Christianity'. "I
asked the Lebanese to forgive me. Confessing to God or a priest
is good. But confessing my own faults to the harmed persons
may help them. Today I am ashamed of my past. I cannot change
it. But I can be responsible for my future and the future of
my country. I know that feeling sorry will not be enough! I
should show to others where I went wrong and be part of the
campaign to build the post-war, new Lebanon, where all may
be reconciled and live as one."
Shihab, a Lebanese journalist, spontaneously responded to these
words of a former militiaman from the other side: "When Assaad Chaftari presented his moving apology, I had to salute him, hug him,
ask for forgiveness. I come from a Muslim background. As a
teenager I joined a militant group and participated in shelling
Christian neighbourhoods with mortars. Later I was given a
long range rifle with a powerful telescope, and was ordered
to snipe at people belonging to the other side. It was a moment
of truth when, through my telescope, I once saw three people
running for cover: an old woman and two boys. One of them looked
like a cousin of mine. The old woman reminded me of my grandmother.
My conscience told me that they are people like us. No political
causes were worth the bloodshed. I refused to follow orders
and decided to quit. I pledge to walk hand in hand with Assaad
Chaftari, and with all the people who denounce violence and seek a better future for our children."
from the Boston Globe:
BEIRUT-In the decade since Lebanon's civil war ended, this
country has tried to rebuild from the ruins .... In a letter
addressed to his victims "both
living and dead" he became the first high-level militia leader to aplogise for the thousands
that he and his Christian militia contributed .... By Charles
M. Sennott,GLOBE STAFF