1968: Ramez Salame – ‘I gave away my gun’

11/06/2021
Ramez Salame credit: Inner Change

 

In 1968, a leadership training course for young people took place at the conference centre in Caux – a precursor of the scores of similar programmes which have followed, culminating in today’s Caux Peace and Leadership Programme.

One of those who took part was a 21-year-old law student brought from Beirut, Lebanon, Ramez Salame. He had encountered Moral Re-Armament (MRA, now Initiatives of Change) earlier that year, and embraced the practice of inner listening. ‘These quiet times were the occasion for God, in whom I had lost all faith, to appear in my inmost self,’ he says. ‘I started having thoughts of real care for people around me.’

 

Ramez Theophil Spoerre Jean Fiaux John Caulfeild.
Leadership training course in Caux with Ramez Salamé standing on the left (back to camera),
John Caulfield, Jean Fiaux, Theophil Spoerri (at blackboard)

 

One of these thoughts was to take his two sisters to the cinema: at that time they could not  have gone on their own. ‘It was a first victory over the total self-centredness in which I had been living. This brought a deep joy into my life.’

In Caux, Ramez continued his exploration. ‘My roommate challenged me that if I wanted to build a new world I had to “scrape my heart”. In a period of reflection, I noted down things which I needed to put right; my relationships with my father and brother and with some friends I had betrayed, and a book I had stolen.’

It was a first victory over the total self-centredness in which I had been living. This brought a deep joy into my life.

He wrote letters of apology to his father and friends, and gave back the book. ‘The most difficult thing was apologizing to my younger brother and confessing my jealousy; but, yielding to the inner urge, I was finally able to do so. When I did that I was a free person. Old habits and resentments disappeared.’

 

Ramez (left) with young Lebanese in Caux

 

Seven years later, in 1975, civil war broke out between Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim communities. Ramez joined a Christian militia. ‘One day, in a moment of prayer, I perceived that God had a more important battle than the one I was fighting. I gave away my gun. Later I had a thought to go across the dividing line in Beirut and meet Muslim friends I hadn’t met for a long time because of the war.’ It was so dangerous that he didn’t tell his wife what he was doing.

One day, in a moment of prayer, I perceived that God had a more important battle than the one I was fighting. I gave away my gun.

 

Ramez Salamé Mediterranean Dialogue 1988
Ramez (background) with participants of the Mediterranean Dialogue in Caux, 1988

 

Ramez and his Muslim friends launched a series of dialogue meetings which brought together influential people from the various communities and parties. He brought scores of young Lebanese to Caux during those difficult years. ‘I shared a room with one of them,’ remembers Ulli Ott Chanu. ‘She spoke French, I spoke English, so it was really hard to communicate. But she gave me a wooden icon which I still have. Whenever I see it I think of her and Lebanon. This is what Caux does to people – opening up the world and bringing people into your heart.’

Assaad Chaftari, credit: iofc.org
Assaad Chaftari

The dialogues continued after the war ended. Ex-combatants from both sides took part, renouncing the atrocities they had been involved in. One of them was Assaad Chaftari, a former leader of a Christian militia. Today these former enemies work together as ‘Fighters for Peace’, co-founded by Chaftari, to help younger Lebanese to discover ‘what we realized too late – that in a civil war everyone loses’. They speak in schools and universities, organize summer camps, reach out to families who have lost relatives, using dialogues, theatre and an online library of personal stories.

‘The rebirth of my personal faith could have merely made me a self-sufficient and proud Christian believer,’ says Ramez. ‘But IofC has constantly challenged me to go beyond this: to reach out to others – particularly my Muslim compatriots – and to work with them for a renewal that must start first in our own lives, on the basis of our shared need for each other.’

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

Watch Ramez Salamé's interview on What dialogue requires to be fruitful (Innerchange documentary)

 

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.

 

  • Photo top and video: Inner Change
  • Photos on terrace in Caux: Initiatives of Change
  • Photo Mediterranean Dialogue: Christoph Spreng
  • Photo Assaad Chaftari: Initiatives of Change

 

 

Featured Story
Off
Event Categories
75 stories 75th anniversary

related stories

Cigdem Song of Asia square

1969: Çigdem Bilginer – ‘I was not the centre of the universe any more’

Militant Turkish student Çigdem Bilginer arrived in Caux in 1969 dissatisfied after taking part in student riots against the establishment and the Americans. ‘The American ambassador’s car was burned ...

Teame Mebrahtu photo: John Bond

1967: Teame Mebrahtu – ‘It’s immaterial where I live’

Teame Mebrahtu came to Caux in 1967, five years after his homeland of Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia. The liberation struggle – which was to continue for three decades – was gaining momentum. Resentm...

Buth Diu (photo Arthur Strong)

1966: Buth Diu – Not who is right but what is right

In 1966, a senior Sudanese politician, Buth Diu, presented the London headquarters of Moral Re-Armament (now Initiatives of Change) with spears and a hippotamus leather shield, as a token of his desir...

Robert Carmichael and Indian

1965: Robert Carmichael - Industry which puts people first

In 1965, the first freely negotiated agreement between industrialized and developing nations on the price of a raw material was signed in Rome. This pioneering accord was in large part the work of an ...

Muriel Smith

1963: Muriel Smith – A voice for racial healing

Near the coffee bar in the Caux Palace stands a grand piano, the gift of American mezzo-soprano Muriel Smith. She was a familiar face at Caux conferences in the 1960s, filling the meeting hall and the...

Daw Nyein Tha (from Joyful revolutionary) square

1964: Daw Nyein Tha – ‘When I point my finger at my neighbour’

You never knew who you might meet in the Caux kitchens in the 1960s. The kitchen which prepared dishes for Asian guests was presided over by a small Burmese woman in her 60s. Few would have guessed th...

Walking Buffalo portrait

1962: Chief Walking Buffalo – Respect and protect Mother Earth

In 1962, a documentary about a remarkable 62,000-mile journey was premiered in Caux. Two years before, Chief Walking Buffalo of the Nakoda (Stoney) Nation and Chief David Crowchild of the Tsuut’ina (S...

Patrick Colquhoun

1961 - Patrick Colquhoun: ‘That week changed my life’

‘Papers about Moral Re-Armament (now Initiatives of Change) sent to me by a friend over the previous three years invariably ended in the bin,’ wrote Patrick Colquhoun. But his first visit at the confe...

Marcel Grandy and Archbishop Makarios

1960 - Cyprus: 'Hope never dies'

There are few problems in the world that have not found some echo in the conferences and encounters in Caux since 1946. In 1960 Cyprus gained its independence, after several years of sometimes violent...

Lennart Segerstrale

1959 – Lennart Segerstråle: ‘Art must be dangerous to evil’

In 1959, a vast fresco was unveiled on the wall of the dining room of the Caux Palace. Its creator, the Finnish artist Lennart Segerstråle, chose the universal image of water to represent his vision o...

Caux school 4

1958 - Angela Elliott: At school in Caux

Angela Cook (later Elliott) arrived in Caux in 1958, aged four. She was one of some 40 children who lived in Caux at different times between 1955 and 1965, attending a small chalet school just up the ...

Jessie Bond 1945

1957 - Jessie Bond: 'I saw his greatness'

Jessie Bond was struggling to cope with four children and her husband’s frequent outbursts. She was seriously thinking of leaving him when they went to Switzerland to spend the summer in Caux. A time ...

Freedom scene square

1955 - Freedom: 'Do you think you could write a play?'

‘We were catapulted into history,’ said Manasseh Moerane, one of the writers of Freedom. The play was seen by 30,000 people all over Europe and demand was so great that they decided to make a film. Fr...