Lebanese SOS Youth group capture the hearts of the Irish
Compiled by Guy Jones
Irish Junior Minister for Enterprise Mr John McGuiness, Father Willie Purcell and the Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation Board members Christine Coman and Guy Jones met on Sunday the 27th of July 08 a youth group from Lebanon currently visiting Ireland, hosted by the Arts for Peace Foundation and the Irish Defense Forces.
The group visited the Castle and the Cedar of Lebanon planted in its grounds .They were greeted by many Lebanese residing in Kilkenny. The youth group is taking part of a therapeutic respite program for children affected by conflict. Arts for Peace also provides a forum for intercultural dialogue between Irish and the visiting SOS youth group. For the duration of this program the youth from Lebanon have been working side by side with a similar group from Ireland who come from under privileged environment and aims at opening the young minds to each others’ cultures .The SOS youth exemplary behavior throughout the program was remarkable .They have captured the hearts of all the carers and organizers of the program also they have impressed everyone with their harmony in spite of their religious divergence.
Ms Elizabeth Garrahy, Founder and Managing Director of Arts for Peace accompanied the group on Sunday .Her work is recognized and highly regarded in Ireland and in the Middle East. The success of this program hosting a group from Lebanon for the first time persuaded Ms Garrahy’s to visit Lebanon later on this year to prepare for more programs in 2009.
The Irish Defense Forces are hosting in the Curragh camps all the youths activities. The presence of Irish troops in Lebanon since 1958 made over the years a bond between the Irish and the Lebanese that is comparable to none .The Army's in-depth knowledge of the Lebanese way of life made the Lebanese youth feel very much at home. Earlier in the day the youth group laid wreaths at the UN memorial at St Mary’s remembrance Garden in Thurles. The Mayor of Thurles Ms May Quinn, Councillor Jim Ryan and Chairman Johnny Wort , members of the Thurles Memorial Committee and members of UN veterans took part of the ceremony before heading off to Kilkenny. The Irish Lebanese Cultural Foundation was delighted with the outcome of the visit and vowed to continue their support to Arts for Peace. The Lebanese youth tour ends on the 3d of August As they return home they will take with them lovely images of Ireland, the generosity of its people and an Irish blessing: May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home and may the hand of a friend always be near.