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Tolerating Each Other and Accepting the Map - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English
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Opinion

Tolerating Each Other and Accepting the Map

A civil defence member runs at a market hit by air strikes in Aleppo's rebel-held al-Fardous district, Syria October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

Don’t fall into the trap of history. It’s an enormous ambush. If you fearfully fall into it, it will turn into a field of hatred. It will raise your fears, your anxiety. It will ignite your feelings and sharpen your swords. It will reopen old wounds and awaken your rancor. History is meaningless, unless you delve into it calmly and wisely only to derive useful lessons.

The importance of history is determined by how much you learn from it to brighten up your present moment and open the doors of the future.

Wars arising from the past have left us in torment. If we count the losses incurred by the people of the Middle East over the last years, we will understand that we are witnessing a world war in a single region. It would be enough to count nationalities of militants, who infiltrated into a country or another, or engaged into battles that are not theirs. It would be also enough to consider the numerous breeds of aircrafts shelling this corner of the planet.

Conflicts in a world-war style; millions of refugees and migrants; hundreds of thousands of people killed; demographic and ethnic mutations; atrocious scenes of bloodshed; crowds fleeing their nations, throwing themselves into shadowy roads, death boats or camps of humiliation and hunger.

Helpless or ruined states; shattered countries; terrified armies and voracious militias…

As the giant tyrant leaves the scene, little despots share the power. Mediations fail and elections become useless. We have become our own burden and the world’s nightmare.

The inflow of photos frightens me. They remind me of violent movies and stories about the world wars. It is not easy to watch neighborhoods becoming fields of rubble or residents carrying their children, with trepidation and sadness, fleeing towards the unknown. It is not easy to watch people begging for a refuge, a tent, or a passport.

Two years ago I went to visit Syrian refugees, who had just reached Berlin. A young man, who endured a long journey on a death boat, told me that he was happy to be in a safe country, where he could have three meals per day. Oh Lord!

I also think of millions of Arab children, who have been out of school for several years. I think of the stories of cruelty and brutality they hear about their countries. I think of feelings of bitterness infiltrating into their veins; of suicidal thoughts that could attract them. I also think of the tremendous losses that would push afflicted countries to seek foreign aid to rebuild what bloody conspiracies have destroyed.

It is hard to believe that the world will be ready to rebuild fallen and shattered states, with authorities and ruling factions that cannot be trusted.

Massive human losses; colossal financial costs… As the world moves forward, we will languish in the specter of past conflicts, for decades.

The world will not come to our rescue, unless we strive to rescue ourselves. Major decisions must be made. Decisions, which we hesitated to make as we tried to hide our true feelings…

The first decision must be to admit that coexistence is the main pillar of our region. To tolerate each other and respect the right to be different; the right to live in peace within safe and internationally acknowledged borders… To respect values that European countries learned from bitter experiences and hard lessons… To send the wounds of the past to a history museum, on the footsteps of France and Germany… To seek to build bridges and protect national borders… To prioritize development and build universities rather than military barracks…

Another lesson is defined by accepting the map, even if in moments of madness, the map seems unjust and unbearable. Accepting the map is far less agonizing than allowing others to meddle with our demographics. Maps are like human beings. They become weary and old with time. Wise governments understand the importance of maintaining their maps in good condition, by listening to their people, allaying their fears and concerns, engaging in sustainable development and keeping pace with the world’s progress. Wise governments establish strong institutions that stand tall in the face of lurking storms.

The Middle East will not rise from the ashes unless coexistence is founded. Black desires of genocides, dominance and eradication would only lead to carnage. Today’s dominant figures would become defenseless in the future.

No stability can be achieved in the Middle East without a clear decision to tolerate each other, to build bridges rather than building walls; to acknowledge international borders and to promote people’s living conditions; to provide modern schooling and fair work opportunities; and to guarantee public engagement in sustainable development.

We will remain at the edge of the abyss unless we make those major decisions. More countries will fall, more cities will be buried… ISIS’ successor will be even more cruel and merciless…

The key is to think about the future of our grandchildren rather than languishing in the wars of our ancestors.

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel

Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

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