My apology letter

From Assaad Chaftari

Video Interview Transcript

I had a lot of regrets and I had to speak of them openly, So I wrote a letter of apology in the press to my victims or to their relatives because many of them were not alive anymore. I also said in the same letter that I had forgiven those who had harmed me or my people. And I meant partially the Christians also who were my comrades, then enemies, and now friends. And since then I promised to myself and promised God and humanity if you like to try to redeem and to try to prevent anyone really to go through the same cycle I went through to use violence for any change. Violence does not lead to anything but to more violence and it not only kills the other but it kills also your humanity and you become a beast or I don't know what.
When my I issued my letter of apology if you like I didn't know what would be the reaction. My family was very afraid especially my wife. But she was backing me because she went through the same cycle like me you know and we met during the Civil War. She was also a Resistor if you like. So the night I was going to, I was expecting the media to publish it I received calls already asking me not to do it because I would be accusing my group or the community etc. But I said let me check. I went back to what I had written and read it again. I only spoke of myself. I never spoke of a group or accusing anybody else but me. So I told them this is not the case. You don't have to worry but still they were very annoyed you know. I had to pull off telephones so that I could do it without being annoyed.
The shocking thing that among my former enemies now I had enemies from both sides. But let's speak of the Muslims and those of from the Muslim side, let's say, I received very positive reactions. Of course it was not anonymous, but I had the really extraordinary reactions you know as if they were waiting for someone from the Christian side to say what I had said. Really waiting. And you know they were eager to hear something that would help them to accept you know the new situation Lebanon was was living.
As from the Christian side you know reactions were quite different. You know the majority were shocked by what I had done and felt that I was a traitor once again you know to the Christian cause or to the Christians. And they most of them or even everybody in Lebanon thought that I was trying to clear myself and to get ready to go back to a political life you know in the new Lebanon you know the post-war Lebanon. But later on they discovered that this was not the case. No, but I was really speaking from the heart and addressing hearts you know. And so among the Christians apart from those who thought that I was a traitor some came and told me okay, you have known this change of heart maybe, and you have regrets, but why do it publicly you know. Others said, okay but you should maybe have waited for a Muslim to do it first and then you could follow. And if that was the case I would have stayed till today and done nothing you know. And because when you are the first one to awake you don't sleep until the others wake up. No you wake up and you help them to wake up maybe. This is the idea behind it. At the end I had the chance to wake up before before others.
Some I met even in the street I remember still a scene that I will never forget someone. In fact, we met in the corridor of a hospital and he came crying and embraced me saying you know you did something that we all felt like we needed doing but we never really did it you know. So yes the reactions were quite different. You know quite quite different. Now, did it help or not. I really think that it helped.
It helped on many levels. First, as I told you because later on I met some politicians and some writers and philosophers Arab philosophers who said that what I had done and one of them that I respect a lot now he is dead too but he is dead really once publicly shouted Assaad Chaprari you saved the Christians of Lebanon by what you did. Of course I did not see it this way but this is what how he expressed it you know. As a Muslim this meant a lot to me because this meant also that he was expecting something from the Christians that never happened. Long years for long years you know he was waiting for this Now, yes I think that it helped because it became a kind of request that all normal Lebanese are asking for you know that we need to reconcile we need to apologize we need similar things.
And the best example that I have is the other fighters today who are working we are working as a group as a team you know and they are not Christians. So, yes at a certain level Muslims also are now working for ex-fighters are working for peace and working for change and express publicly you know maybe not in the media as a direct message and direct thing like I did but they are addressing in parallel with me when we sit together and speak together their way and they regret the use of violence. This is a good really good example of some good results you know.
I could speak for hours you know after a longest experience of 60 years of addressing the public in Lebanon or outside about excellent reactions or painful sometimes reactions. I just remembered now something that happened in Canada once imagined that in Canada where after speaking publicly, we weren't invited to a closer to a smaller group and a person sits of a certain age and is silent. We were speaking and commenting and no reactions to that. And at the end he says, I would like to say something. I have been suffering for 25 years after the killing of nine of my relatives in a Palestinian camp here in Lebanon, Tel al-Zaatar, where huge attacks, battles happened and where many many disappeared were killed you know Palestinians were killed. They call it a massacre. And I would call it too a massacre at the end of what happened at the end of the long fight that happened there. He said, nine of my family, close family, sister, parents, cousins were killed there. And for the first time since 25 years I feel as if I'm not sick anymore because I heard this gentlemen apologize in the name of those who had killed my own, if you like. So you never forget his looks. You never forget his way of saying it. You never forget what you feel back then that even if people despise you because of what you're doing. But at the end you are healing some of the wounds that you and others have caused you know.

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