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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Remembering the Lebanese Civil War (Lydia Wilson)

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lydia wilson

A transcription of a talk by Middle East expert Lydia Wilson on the absence of commemoration of the Lebanese Civil War.

The Civil War in Lebanon was resolved with a ceasefire. There was a certain amount of reshuffling of the political system, but essentially the status quo remains, until today. The political system is sectarian by definition: the President is always a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister is always a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament is always a Shi’a Muslim. By definition the Lebanese live in a sectarian political system and, as a result of this, the ceasefire has been durable. There have been local flare-ups at various times, particularly in Palestinian refugee camps over the last few years – we have seen this happen – but there has not been any national violence. By and large, Lebanon has been a very peaceful society, despite the complexity of the actors in the Civil War both inside Lebanese society (Palestinians, and the various religious sects) and also the national actors that became involved: Israel, which invaded in 1982, the Western Powers that participated (America, France and Italy), and Syria, which occupied Lebanon until 2005.

What has not happened at all in Lebanon is any form of commemoration. Instead, there have been local and personal initiatives to deal with various memories. For example there was a very interesting street performance a couple of summers ago, in which locations of violence across Beirut were...

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