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After The Lebanese Civil War, An Apology

Photo: Assaad Chaftari walking through an exhibition of people who disappeared during the Lebanese Civil War.
Sleepless Nights documentary

During the Lebanese Civil War of the 1970s and 1980s, Assaad Chaftari served as a soldier and an intelligence official for the Christian militia. He was responsible for the death of many Lebanese Muslims, and it wasn’t until years after the war ended and he heard his son making disparaging remarks about Muslims that he decided to repent publicly for his actions. He sent a letter to a local news agency and received some surprising responses.A translation of the apology letter Chaftari wrote:

I don’t want my attitude to be seen as a reaction, but rather as one action coming after another. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, for more than ten years in fact. But I couldn’t pluck up enough courage as I was afraid of being treated as mad or naïve. Now I’d like to apologise to all those people I executed or who were my victims, whether they were aware of it or not, or whether I knew or didn’t know them. No matter whether these acts were committed personally or by proxy.

I apologise for the horror of war and for what I did during the Lebanese civil war in the name of “Lebanon”, the “cause”, and “Christianity.” I apologise for considering myself as the sole representative and defender of these ideas. I apologise for seeing myself as a god, capable alone of putting my own house – and those of others – in order, by whatever means, including force.

I apologise for – in defending what I believed to be Christianity in Lebanon – not having practised true Christianity, which is love for others, a love which knows no violence. I apologise for being fanatical. I apologise for believing that, on behalf of the “cause,” I and my comrades were always in the right.

I apologise for the climate of disgust created by what has and will be said in books written in English, French, and Arabic, or seen on television, whether the facts reported are true or false, known or unknown, subject to amnesty or not, or whether or not it’s too late to take out legal proceedings.

I’d like to say that I’ve long since forgiven those who personally harmed me or my family and friends, directly or indirectly, during the “dirty” civil war. This course of action is the only way for me to become a new man, able to cope with the post-war world. It’s a phase of building, and rebuilding what was destroyed, and above all a phase of recompense for what was done during the long years of war.

I hope that my attitude will be seen as responsible rather that as a sign of weakness. It has no connection with any decision that might issue from a Lebanese court on behalf of the Lebanese people to whom I offer my respects.

The distorted image that we’re left with after fifteen years of bitter strife is that all those who took part, whatever their allegiance, were war criminals. I apologise to all of the “noble spirits” from all sides and affiliations who risked or gave up their lives for a certain idea of country, whether they were right or not. Besides, could we have known who was on the right side? The behaviour of a shameless few spread the horror among all of us, making us all war criminals.

I hope that my appeal will be seen as the only real and effective way forward to get out of the Lebanese crisis. Souls will be cleansed of hatred, grudges, and past sorrows, thus bringing about a genuine reconciliation of ourselves before we seek reconciliation with others.

Finally, I hope that my Holy Father will help me to heal the wounds in my soul and in the souls of others.

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