Close encounters

Last week, a car bomb went off in a suburb of South Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city. The area, known as Harat Hreik, is the headquarters of Hezbollah, which is aligned with President Assad in Syria and is thus involved in the civil war.

Harat Hreik is no stranger to violence. During the Lebanese civil war, it experienced heavy fighting and more recently, it was largely destroyed by Israel in their war on Hezbollah in 2006. With the uprising in Syria turning into a sectarian civil war, mainly between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, the conflict has spread into Lebanon to create tension between religious groups in what is a very diverse and fragile political system.

Notably, at least to me personally, Harat Hreik is where my father grew up,and where I have spent most of my time in Lebanon on several visits. When I visited in 2008, reconstruction had hidden most of the damage done during the war. I had seen the aerial photos of flattened buildings and watched images of rubble in the news, but never made the connection once I arrived in 2008 between those images and the place I was living. It was never intimate enough.

However, this recent car bombing was maybe 50 metres from where I lived for months at a time and where my family still lives, shops, eats and works.

It was surreal seeing the same space I once lived in the background of amateur videos of the immediate aftermath of the car bomb’s detonation.

It felt strange and left me a little bit shook. Five were dead and many injured, none of which my family thank goodness, but I still felt a sense of loss or confusion. It then dawned on me that I was perhaps getting a glimpse into the lives of immigrants and refugees who leave their homes behind, only to watch through fragmented news clips of the war that is ravaging the place they once lived. It must be even more emotionally challenging to live in a country that wages war on your homeland. How people deal with that and form allegiances and reconcile that internal conflict, I will never know.

I am immensely saddened by the current state of affairs in Lebanon and how it appears to be being dragged into another war its people have no desire to fight. But, my feelings pale in comparison to those directly involved.

The car bombing was a horrific, cowardly act of violence and I can only hope that those suffering in conflict and those who watch from a distance find peace in an eventual safety, in their homeland or otherwise.

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