Hospitality in an Age of Terror

By Suzie Lahoud

“By the exercise of hospitality we come to the knowledge of Christ.” – Augustine[1]

The week that the controversial US travel and immigration ban was first issued, I sat in my living room in Lebanon with a Syrian woman whose water had broken in her seventh month of pregnancy. Both she and the baby were now at risk. Yet she came, not for medical assistance, but because she and her husband couldn’t afford the $350 that they needed to pay their month’s rent before they and their four children were evicted.

A couple of days later my husband sat with a close friend who sought his counsel on whether or not he should take the risk of smuggling his two teenage sisters and elderly mother out of Deir ez-Zor, an ISIS occupied region of Syria. The roads had temporarily opened up and he was desperate to bring them to safety.

Terror is not knowing if you and your unborn child will last the night.  Terror is agonizing over whether or not your sisters and mother will make it out alive. Terror is wondering how you will keep a roof over your young children’s heads in the peak of winter.

Two weeks ago this travel ban again reared its ugly head. Yet such policies do not protect against terror, they perpetuate it.  Continue reading

The Church and the Banality of Evil

By Suzie Lahoud

“For Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Cor.11:14

The Banality of Evil

When the great political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, agreed to cover the trial of Nazi leader, Adolf Eichmann, it is doubtful that she or anyone could have predicted the shocking conclusion she was to reach. Coining the term, “the banality of evil,” Arendt exposed the frightening normality of the Nazi machine in executing its Final Solution.[1] In what Arendt described as a “show trial,” the villain put on display proved to have been motivated less by psychopathic sadism and more by an unwavering obedience and sense of duty.[2] Equally disconcerting was the description of Eichmann’s own dislike of gratuitous violence and weak stomach for gore. Here stood before the court, not the very portrait of a deranged, cold-blooded murderer, but rather, an ordinary “law-abiding citizen.”[3] Continue reading

Do We Lack the Moral Imagination? Part Two: Seeing the Other

By Suzie Lahoud

 What man. . . if with a scrupulous attention he searches all the recesses of his soul, will not perceive that his virtues and vices are wholly owing to different modifications of personal interest? . . . For after all interest is always obeyed; hence the injustice of all our judgments. -Helvetius[1]

The vision of humanity is inherently myopic. We are barely able to see the needs of our neighbor in the house, apartment, or even cubicle beside us; let alone to recognize the needs of our neighbor across borders. Yet that is precisely what Christ calls us to do.

Humanity’s natural proclivity is to act, and increasingly so at the collective level, primarily in its own self-interest. However, despite our innate failings, there is a means by which this propensity may be transcended. Continue reading

Do We Lack the Moral Imagination? Part One: Demasking the Scapegoat

By Suzie Lahoud

“A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” – Aristotle

I was recently having a chat with the water filter guy, who is a fount of information. He was bemoaning the fact that, as a former procurement manager in Dubai, he had not been able to find a suitable job after returning to Lebanon. This, he attributed to the large influx of Syrian refugees who had flooded the job market. Moreover, he seemed none too pleased upon learning that I work for a humanitarian organization serving (though not exclusively) this same refugee population.

What struck me about this encounter was not its particularity, but rather, its seeming ubiquity. Continue reading

Responding to Syria: Five Years On

(Photograph: John Bowen – Location: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)

by Suzie Lahoud

“I wonder why all children are happy around the world enjoying Christmas decorations, different colors, new clothes, but the children in our country live, every year, with a hope that the next year will be better, yet they discover that it is more painful than the year before.” – Tartous, Syria; December 2015

I have never been able to reconcile myself to the disparities of the world. Growing up, I used to regularly travel across time and space from the raw want of the former Soviet Union to the wealthy consumerism of the United States.  In Uzbekistan, the average “middle-class” citizen owned two pairs of clothes, and was annually wrangled into picking cotton in the fields without pay in the hot, summer months.  When we traveled back to America each year I sometimes wandered the streets of the neat, suburban neighborhood that I used to call home and just wonder how people there lived. I longed for a bygone day when that was all that I had known.  When everyone lived in comfortable houses and children rode happily on their bikes in quiet streets.

I believe that today the world is facing a similar coming of age.  We long for a bygone day when children didn’t wash up on sea shores, and mothers didn’t have to walk for miles with bloodied feet just to reach the next border.  Continue reading

When Religion Becomes Idolatry: A Reflection on the Politics of Identity in the Midst of the Syrian Crisis

By Suzie Lahoud

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Cor. 13:12

Like Jacob, I have recently wrestled with God over the politics of my own identity. From a young age I had attained to what many around me attested to be “profound maturity” in my Christian faith.  I could quote Bible verses in the proper context with a sound interpretation for the right circumstance.  I had a solid theological answer for every question of faith, and even for those questions I had not yet thought to ask, I could conjure an immediate response based on my finely tuned spiritual reasoning.

And then war broke out in Syria, and my faith was shattered.  Continue reading