A student of mine, studying Theology, future clerk, asked me a while ago: ‘‘Why, a woman ‘like you’ (describing me as ‘young trendy secular woman’), not attached to any religious function, is interested in religions, cultures, philosophy, politics, etc. in a country like Lebanon where the production of knowledge – if it exists – on religious matters is in the hands of men and especially religious men? Are you on a mission?”
Am I on a mission? Indeed. At least, this is what I feel, what I believe.
Why a mission? First, what I do for a living is in fact a blend between passion, a quest for truth, an acute sense of discovering/uncovering mysteries, an escape from certain traumatic dimensions, a self-therapy, challenges, a need to turn dreams into reality, the urge to help others in need, the strong belief in learning from the past to live a better present where every moment counts (“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on Earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross); and… the belief in consulting my hopes, not my fears, to think about unfulfilled potential, not frustrations, to concern myself with what is possible for me to do, not with what I tried and failed in.
Peace is one of the many battles I am fighting for, both Internal (on a personal level, inner-peace and in the private sphere) and External (contributing to build peace in society, in the public sphere). ‘A woman’s place is in the kitchen’; this well-known saying places the woman in the private sphere, out of public life and it raises a number of key assumptions when thinking about this ‘woman’. We imagine her to have a husband and children, for whom she is dutifully preparing food, whilst he is at work, providing income and protecting his family. We also assume that this woman is of peace, caring and non-violent.
However, the basic premise behind my peace activism as a woman is not a question of feminine characteristics versus masculine characteristics, nor a matter of chromosomes or menstrual cycles; it has to do with my refusal, as a human being and as a woman, to accept war as a solution to solve conflicts, no matter how complicated they may be, and it is my answer to the suffering of women from discrimination and oppression throughout the world and especially in the Middle East – women who have also remained absent from peace building processes and negotiations. Furthermore, one of my goals is to bring out the interconnectedness of all forms of violence – domestic, societal, state based and inter-state and its gendered dimension – in order to inform and influence peace building processes from a feminist perspective.
Finally, my peace activism related to my feminism is a political reasoning, position and praxis.