Meet Ghadi, first ‘sect-less’ baby in deeply divided Lebanon

Ghadi first sect-less lebaneseBeirut, Lebanon – In a country as small as a newborn baby is tiny, the birth of Ghadi has been a very big deal for Lebanon.

“Ghadi was born pure, was born a Lebanese citizen,” explains his happy mother, Kholoud Sukkarieh, as she holds her nearly 2-month-old baby close. “He was not born a sectarian person.”

Sukkarieh calls that accomplishment “a step forward for a better Lebanon” and “the result of a long struggle.”

You certainly wouldn’t know from glancing at Ghadi’s uncluttered birth certificate — a simple document that belies the complexity of his status.

Sukkarieh points proudly to a line that would normally denote her son’s sect. But on this historic, yet flimsy little square of paper, it’s been very deliberately left blank.

That may sound easy, but in a country of 18 different faiths spread amongst less than five million people, it was anything but. Lebanon’s government relies heavily on a sectarian political balance to maintain a very tentative peace. It’s a system that always seems fraught with peril for its population.

Ghadi, whose name in Arabic means “my future”, isn’t old enough to worry yet. His parents dream of a future where he’ll never have to.

Kholoud Sukkariyeh and Nidal Darwish
Kholoud Sukkarieh a Sunni Muslim, and Nidal Darwish a Shiite Muslim became the first couple to be granted a civil marriage license in Lebanon.

Sukkarieh, a Sunni Muslim, and her husband Nidal Darwish, who is Shiite, never wanted a religious wedding ceremony. But civil marriages aren’t legal in Lebanon.

Committed as much to each other as they were to their cause, Sukkarieh and Darwish took on political and religious leaders — fighting a two-year battle from engagement onward in order to become the first couple to be granted a civil marriage license in Lebanon.

Amidst the country’s confessional system of governance, one whose politics have become more fractured as its sectarian lines have grown deeper, it looked on many occasions like they might not win out. But despite strong opposition and multiple threats, they persevered.

The law still hasn’t been changed but momentum is now growing to change it. Sukkarieh and Darwish’s marriage license was approved last April, and they haven’t stopped pushing the envelope since. But in Lebanon, where religion can mean the difference between life and death, love and birth aren’t always celebrated.

“Somebody talked to me on Facebook,” Sukkarieh tells me, “and said ‘I will turn your baby into blood because he’s an illegal baby’ based on his point of view … saying ‘you won’t see him growing up — you will see him killed some day between your hands.'”

It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could see Ghadi as a threat, yet sectarian tensions have long existed in this country — one that experienced a brutal 15-year civil war, and one that is being drawn deeper every day into another civil war in neighboring Syria.

“Somebody talked to me on Facebook,” Sukkarieh tells me, “and said ‘I will turn your baby into blood because he’s an illegal baby’ based on his point of view … saying ‘you won’t see him growing up — you will see him killed some day between your hands.’”

Just last week, two suicide bombs rocked Beirut. Over the summer, dozens were killed in blasts targeting both Sunni and Shiite strongholds throughout the country.

It’s no wonder Darwish is so fearful for his family.

“It’s very hard because, when Kholoud and I started down this path, we got threats, but it didn’t make a difference to us, we were proud of what we were doing and the steps we were taking,” he says. “But since Ghadi arrived we’ve started to feel scared.”

The family that wants to change Lebanon may now have to leave it. As they consider relocating, they grow sadder and more worried.

“You end up living a life of fear,” says Darwish. “I just constantly want to protect Kholoud and Ghadi,” he adds, “hold them close and not let them go.”

“We are trying now to apply for immigration somewhere else where we can be protected as human beings and [where we can keep] our human and civil rights,” Sukkarieh says

“We are trying now to apply for immigration somewhere else where we can be protected as human beings and [where we can keep] our human and civil rights,” Sukkarieh says.

This is the sad reality of Lebanon: A beautiful baby whose arrival was meant to bring hope may now need to depart a divided country that could use that hope more than ever.

CNN

  • nagy_michael2

    Why can’t haters leave this beautiful family alone and let them live in peace. what a bunch of lunatics we have in lebanon threatening to kill a baby.. that tells you the narrow and defeatist mentality they were born with..

  • nagy_michael2

    Why can’t haters leave this beautiful family alone and let them live in peace. what a bunch of lunatics we have in lebanon threatening to kill a baby.. that tells you the narrow and defeatist mentality they were born with..

  • Hannibal

    Kholoud and Nidal,

    The majority of Lebanese, the silent majority, is with you… May God protect you and protect Ghadi from those who pretend they work for God.
    We are with you mind and spirit…

    • 5thDrawer

      I wonder how this applies to the baby left on a sidewalk that a friend picked up and took care of for 4 years .. when no-one else would take it. Obviously born IN Lebanon … but no papers at all.

      • Hannibal

        I would have in a jiffy picked the baby up and raised him as my own… My son is adopted and he is the best thing that ever happened to me.
        5th, you say for 4 years… Do you mean 4 years ago or he/she stopped being the caregiver as they found the parents?

        • 5thDrawer

          4 years + … I think I told the story here before … still with the friends. But they are mere women … cannot ‘adopt’ without a ‘man’. Idiot laws ….
          The boy calls one Mama … and she HAS been – and will be.
          But the boy is legally in a void ….
          At the time, the orphanage said: ‘Too full – can’t take him’. And the police said: ‘It’s a religious holiday … we’ll call later’. They never did, of course.
          Advertising produced no claim on him.
          She could not put him back on the street …. he is ‘family’ in all ways now.

          I worry about how to get him into a school … what is a future with ‘no papers’?

          Consider one more thing … a young Lady gives up her possible future to save a baby lying in little clothing soaked in it’s own filth, crying loudly enough for many to hear walking by. In that society, what has she become in the eyes of those who see her with a child?
          And what indeed would those ‘deeply religious’ IDIOTS who MAKE the Law do to help them? (I stop here … the disgust I have for all of them cannot be said ..)

          • Hannibal

            Sad…

  • Hannibal

    Kholoud and Nidal,

    The majority of Lebanese, the silent majority, is with you… May God protect you and protect Ghadi from those who pretend they work for God.
    We are with you mind and spirit…

    • 5thDrawer

      I wonder how this applies to the baby left on a sidewalk that a friend picked up and took care of for 4 years .. when no-one else would take it. Obviously born IN Lebanon … but no papers at all.

      • Hannibal

        I would have in a jiffy picked the baby up and raised him as my own… My son is adopted and he is the best thing that ever happened to me.
        5th, you say for 4 years… Do you mean 4 years ago or he/she stopped being the caregiver as they found the parents?

        • 5thDrawer

          4 years + … I think I told the story here before … still with the friends. But they are mere women … cannot ‘adopt’ without a man. Idiot laws ….
          The boy calls one Mama … and she HAS been – and will be.
          But the boy is legally in a void ….
          At the time, the orphanage said: ‘Too full – can’t take him’. And the police said: ‘It’s a religious holiday … we’ll call later’. They never did, of course.
          Advertising produced no claim on him.
          She could not put him back on the street …. he is ‘family’ in all ways.

          I worry about how to get him into a school …

          • Hannibal

            Sad…

  • Btru2u

    It is a fact that Muslims today, are divided amongst themselves. The tragedy is that such divisions are not rooted in the Islamic sources, but are later accretions to the understanding of Islam.

    The Glorious Qur’an says:

    “And hold fast, All together, by the rope

    Which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves;”

    [Al-Qur’an 3:103]

    The rope of Allah that is being referred to in this verse is the Glorious Qur’an, the revelation from God Almighty to all humankind.

    Islam in fact, prohibits its followers from engaging in sectarian disputes.

    The Glorious Qur’an says:

    “As for those who divide their religion and break up Into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.”

    [Al-Qur’an 6:159]

    2. No Disagreement on the pillars of Islam

    While it may be true that Muslims are divided into several sects, often at odds with each other, a closer scrutiny reveals that there is no disagreement on the fundamental pillars of Islam, among the vast majority of Muslims.

    3. Single Identity

    The Glorious Qur’an and Prophet (peace be upon him) refers to the followers of Islam as Muslims.

    “Who is better in speech Than one who calls (men) To Allah, works righteousness, And says, ‘I am of those Who bow in Islam (Muslim)?’ “

    [Al-Qur’an 41:33]

    A Muslim is ‘one who submits’. In that sense, earlier prophets and their true followers were also Muslims.

    4. Ethics of Disagreement in Islam

    The ethics of disagreement are very much a part of the Islamic tradition. Muslims have traditionally accepted the existence of a plurality of opinions on various aspects of their religion. While one may hold a certain opinion to be more authoritative as compared to others, there is nothing in the Islamic sources that encourages a Muslim to disparage the views of others.

    It was this acceptance of diversity that was a distinguishing feature of the great Islamic civilization. Muslims now need to revive the ethics of disagreement which was in the past, a hallmark of Islamic thought.

  • Btru2u

    It is a fact that Muslims today, are divided amongst themselves. The tragedy is that such divisions are not rooted in the Islamic sources, but are later accretions to the understanding of Islam.

    The Glorious Qur’an says:

    “And hold fast, All together, by the rope

    Which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves;”

    [Al-Qur’an 3:103]

    The rope of Allah that is being referred to in this verse is the Glorious Qur’an, the revelation from God Almighty to all humankind.

    Islam in fact, prohibits its followers from engaging in sectarian disputes.

    The Glorious Qur’an says:

    “As for those who divide their religion and break up Into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did.”

    [Al-Qur’an 6:159]

    2. No Disagreement on the pillars of Islam

    While it may be true that Muslims are divided into several sects, often at odds with each other, a closer scrutiny reveals that there is no disagreement on the fundamental pillars of Islam, among the vast majority of Muslims.

    3. Single Identity

    The Glorious Qur’an and Prophet (peace be upon him) refers to the followers of Islam as Muslims.

    “Who is better in speech Than one who calls (men) To Allah, works righteousness, And says, ‘I am of those Who bow in Islam (Muslim)?’ “

    [Al-Qur’an 41:33]

    A Muslim is ‘one who submits’. In that sense, earlier prophets and their true followers were also Muslims.

    4. Ethics of Disagreement in Islam

    The ethics of disagreement are very much a part of the Islamic tradition. Muslims have traditionally accepted the existence of a plurality of opinions on various aspects of their religion. While one may hold a certain opinion to be more authoritative as compared to others, there is nothing in the Islamic sources that encourages a Muslim to disparage the views of others.

    It was this acceptance of diversity that was a distinguishing feature of the great Islamic civilization. Muslims now need to revive the ethics of disagreement which was in the past, a hallmark of Islamic thought.

  • Fauzia45

    Ignorance and *small minds*will continue to create fear and will continue to threaten to kill,but continue the *long struggle* anyway!!!!It s great and beautiful!!!

  • Fauzia45

    Ignorance and *small minds*will continue to create fear and will continue to threaten to kill,but continue the *long struggle* anyway!!!!It s great and beautiful!!!

  • Maborlz Ez-Hari

    Civil marriages are only that, they are not blessed and the future of the family is bleak. Error only produces more error, marriage is a sacred sacrament and these days its treated like a temporary agreement. I can see where these people are coming from but its only due to the intolerance by our many sects and hypocrite leaders. Go back to treating each other with respect and placing God at the head of each family.

    • Hannibal

      One can have a civil marriage and still ask for God’s blessings… I did.

      • Maborlz Ez-Hari

        The dignity of a civil marriage won’t rival that of a blessed marriage. What God unites no man can divide, I would rather all marriages have that applied and not rely on mans authority to celebrate such an important part of the family. What’s next? Man marrying man? Sorry I totally disagree.

        • Hannibal

          You are starting to sound like a salafi moslem about being absolute… The main difference between Islam and Christianity is the approach to life… Islam says SUBMIT while Christianity says CHOOSE…
          Besides according to your logic if a man leaves a woman to another she, and of no fault of her own, is committed to a life of celibacy.
          Shed the weight my friend, I did… and since I have found God.

          • 5thDrawer

            Shiites threw out the logic bits … 😉
            But it was weirded everywhere anyway … As in ‘When the woman is raped it’s her fault’. Some of them even stone her for having suffered. Godly thoughts ….
            Allowed to live as ‘the example’ of how bad the male can be, is not good.
            Allowed to live because you wanted to learn to read a book, is not good.
            Allowed to complain because your husband beats you, is not good.
            Allowed to feel equality with the male. NOT good at all.
            Marriage is a contract – between the males who own the females.
            God being in it anywhere is an after-thought.

          • Maborlz Ez-Hari

            You can’t pick and choose, your free will is there but your not shopping for an outfit where you pick items that you fancy. Read the bible talk to your priest and if that is salafi like we’ll have to disagree. Just dont chop my head off for having a different point of view.

          • Hannibal

            If you consider that chopping your head off then wait until I do 😉

        • libnan1

          I agree with you Maboolz even though you’re not Aounist ….:) God should always be part of a marriage between a man and woman. It’s becoming like a business contract which made it easy for people to give up and go their ways. Sacrifice and compromise for the sake of family should be the theme of marriage.

          • Maborlz Ez-Hari

            God Bless the General and enlighten the minds and hearts of all the politicians. Regarding the General, I admire his determination i just dont like his chances. Sacrifice and comprimise for the sake of the country is a good theme aswell.

  • Maborlz Ez-Hari

    Civil marriages are only that, they are not blessed and the future of the family is bleak. Error only produces more error, marriage is a sacred sacrament and these days its treated like a temporary agreement. I can see where these people are coming from but its only due to the intolerance by our many sects and hypocrite leaders. Go back to treating each other with respect and placing God at the head of each family.

    • Hannibal

      One can have a civil marriage and still ask for God’s blessings… I did.

      • Maborlz Ez-Hari

        The dignity of a civil marriage won’t rival that of a blessed marriage. What God unites no man can divide, I would rather all marriages have that applied and not rely on mans authority to celebrate such an important part of the family. What’s next? Man marrying man? Sorry I totally disagree.

        • Hannibal

          You are starting to sound like a salafi moslem about being absolute… The main difference between Islam and Christianity is the approach to life… Islam says SUBMIT while Christianity says CHOOSE…
          Besides according to your logic if a man leaves a woman to another she, and of no fault of her own, is committed to a life of celibacy.
          Shed the weight my friend, I did… and since I have found God.

          • 5thDrawer

            Shiites threw out the logic bits … 😉
            But it was weirded everywhere anyway … As in ‘When the woman is raped it’s her fault’. Some of them even stone her for having suffered. Godly thoughts ….

          • Maborlz Ez-Hari

            You can’t pick and choose, your free will is there but your not shopping for an outfit where you pick items that you fancy. Read the bible talk to your priest and if that is salafi like we’ll have to disagree. Just dont chop my head off for having a different point of view.

          • Hannibal

            If you consider that chopping your head off then wait until I do 😉

        • libnan1

          I agree with you Maboolz even though you’re not Aounist ….:) God should always be part of a marriage between a man and woman. It’s becoming like a business contract which made it easy for people to give up and go their ways. Sacrifice and compromise for the sake of family should be the theme of marriage.

          • Maborlz Ez-Hari

            God Bless the General and enlighten the minds and hearts of all the politicians. Regarding the General, I admire his determination i just dont like his chances. Sacrifice and comprimise for the sake of the country is a good theme aswell.