Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Can we stop the reconstruction of St Vincent de Paul?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 30/12/2009

(that's the kind of picture u get at 3 o'clock in the morning)

I learnt  from a friend four days ago that the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul planned to restore their church in downtown Beirut. I was totally shocked by the news. I realised that I always hoped that the society would never come up with the funds to rebuild it. I wished this church would become Beirut’s Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. You’ve certainly heard of this church in the center of former West-Berlin. All that remains of this neo-romanesque building bombed by the allies in November 1943 is its damaged tower. It stands today as a reminder of the destruction of war and the symbol of the city’s resolve to rebuild itself after the war.
In Beirut, there is no strong reminder of the war and the city’s resolve to rebuild itself. Solidere has erased all traces of the war and added to the destruction of the old to make way for the new, the expensive, the profitable. The semi destroyed St Vincent the Paul church is a strong symbol that is worth preserving. I wonder if I will be able to convince many people of this. Is there any reader ready to help me

2 Responses to “Can we stop the reconstruction of St Vincent de Paul?”

  1. I think that the preserved church in its present form is much more significant than a rebuilt one but I am not sure that preservation is less costly in money terms and so it is a more difficult order of business in a commercial city. BTW, I do not think that the synagogue in Beirut should be restored either. Let it stand as a symbol of civil war and intolerance. But again preservation would be costly.

  2. You raise an important issue there. St Vincent de Paul is a private organisation and the land the church stands on is extremely expensive. The Society has refused several offers by Solidere to buy the plot of land… So it’s going to be tough to convince them to preserve the building as it is.
    As for the Magen Avraham Synagogue, it is the only surviving synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil, and the Jewish community doesn’t have any other synagogue to worship in anywhere else in Beirut. I think it wouldn’t be fair to deprive them of a religious right to preserve a symbol. And a symbol of what? the jewish community wasn’t really targeted during the civil war. There were some kidnappings and assassinations, but in a small scale compared to other communities. As for the marks of war, the synagogue didn’t suffer much. Its ceiling seems to have been hit during the 1982 Israeli invasion. and the rest is actually the consequence of its abandonnement. So there’s not a lot of symbolism there.
    The restoration of Magen Avraham, and its renewed use as a synagogue, would be a much more important sign of tolerance than it preservation as an abandoned building.

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