The holy valley of Qadisha, the need to protect and preserve it
The Book Committee of the Association Reconstruire Ensemble RE (Rebuild Together ) organized on April 10, 2019 at the Municipal Theater of Jdeideh ElBaouchrieh Sed, a debate circle around the Holy Valley of Qadisha, listed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO in 1998, to celebrate the publication of the book “The Heritage of Qadisha, The Holy Valley” of Sister Clemence Helou, collection of the Oriental Heritage published in Arabic in Beirut By Rebuild Together and in French by Geuthner Editions – Paris.
Dr. Christiane Saliba, Head of the RE Book Committee and Chair of the WLCU World Cultural Commission opens the debate circle, welcoming the audience and emphasizing the importance of common memory as a means of rebuilding together. She sets out the purpose of the RE Book Committee to launch from a historical memory to the renewal of living together as well as the cultural link to humanize communication between people and to respect the difference within the common heritage unit. She pointed out that the highlighting on the World Heritage of Holy Qadisha Valley is that of History and its vestiges, prayers and hermitages, caves and cavities, nature and life in this valley. It is tackled in hope to a road map preserving this natural, religious and patrimonial treasure.
Dr. Saliba later introduced the author of the books in question Sister Clemence Helou, from the Antonine congregation, PhD in philosophy, anthropology and history of religions from Paris universities.
Dr. Jean Yasmine
The discussion circle was led by Dr. Jean Yasmine, a lecturer in architecture and archaeological restoration at the Lebanese University. He is a consultant and leads several projects in the Council for Development and Reconstruction. In his moderation, he stressed the importance of preserving the two basic criteria adopted by UNESCO: Authenticity and Integrity.
Dr. Georges Zouein
In his speech, the former deputy director of the UNESCO World Heritage Office in Paris, economist Dr. Georges Zouein, stressed the importance of the holy Qadisha Valley and the extent of our omission as a Lebanese people of its past, of its importance as a refuge for ascetic life and life with nature. The Qadisha Valley was inscribed on the World Heritage List according to three basic criteria:
1) The site represents a stage in the history of the world.
2) The site contains archaeological landmarks indicating important periods of its history.
3) The site represents spiritual values.
He also thanked all the present leaders of the valley for their efforts to preserve it, especially the civil societies and the Antiquities Department and the Maronite Patriarchate.
The chairman of the group of underground studies and research of Lebanon (GESRL) Mr. Fadi Baroudy, made a detailed presentation of the caves located in large number in the holy valley. He emphasized “the characteristics of these semi-unique hermitages, in proportion to the difficulty and danger of accessing them because of rocky cliffs and bumpy, steep and hilly terrain”, and stated that one of the members of the team paid with his life in the exercise of his mission. It should be pointed out that the mummies of the National Museum of Beirut were discovered by Mr. Baroudy in the Asi-l-Hadath cave in the valley. Many foreign specialists visited the valley and emphasized its uniqueness. Mr. Baroudy also launched a new theory of speleological exploration which consists in exploiting the almost inaccessible caves. Its activities and the discoveries of the association contributed to the classification of the holy Qadisha Valley.
It should be pointed out that the book “Asi-l-Hadath Lebanon, History of a cave” published by the Phoenix Center for Lebanese Studies in Lebanon – USEK won the International Arab Exhibition of Beirut in 2011.
Father Hani Tawk, Head of the RE Youth Committee, recalled the content of Sister Clemence Helou’s book by combining it with her own experience in the valley. He describes the ascetic breaks in this valley, the refuge that was this valley for the monks of different churches and for the Sufism of other religions; the heaven of peace for applicants for freedom and security. The Qadisha Valley housed the first printing house in 1610, was the headquarters of the Maronite patriarchs for 400 years, 23 patriarchs were buried there, three synods were performed there and the most important mummies were discovered there.
He discussed the current activities with young people in the valley as well as the spiritual pilgrimage proposed by the monastery of the Antonine Sisters, especially the annual ascetic days frequented by more and more young people. He ends his speech by asking the valley in the context of religious history especially Christian for a reconstruction of a new religion that of Man. Hence the preservation of the valley should be the responsibility of all good will..
An interactive discussion with the public composed of academics and lovers of the Qadisha Valley was rich in relevant interventions focused on the need to protect this holy valley through strategies and policies that preserve natural sites and monuments and therefore keep the Valley on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The closing remarks were made by RE President Lawyer Rachid Al JAlkh, who thanked the participants and the audience by inviting the various authorities concerned, and in particular the universities, to strengthen the advocacy and preservation actions of Qadisha academically and socially.
Dr. Christiane Saliba
Head of the Book Committee – Reconstruire Ensemble
Head of the WCC – WLCU