Thought Muslim sheikhs and churches are mutually exclusive? This story will make you think again.
On Wednesday, a Muslim sheikh recited the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, in Achrafieh's Basilique Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse church.
The Catholic church hosted Sheikh Khaled Yamout, along with a Muslim choir, in honor of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, which is commemorated on March 25 by both Muslims and Christians.
"We aim to encourage Muslim-Christian amity and promote the spirit of love, harmony and cooperation," Yamout told StepFeed. "Religion should unite us rather than separate us."
A spokesperson for the Médaille Miraculeuse church told StepFeed that since the Annunciation is considered a holy occurrence in both Islam and Christianity, the church holds an event that celebrates amity between the religions every year.
This year, the recital was organized by Naji Khoury, head of Jamhour School and co-secretary general of the Islamic-Christian Union (اللقاء الإسلامي المسيحي).
The Annunciation, known in Arabic as Eid Al-Bechara, marks the announcement through which Angel Gabriel informed Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus. It is acknowledged both in the Islamic Quran and biblical scripture.
While this was Sheikh Yamout's first time reciting Quran in the Médaille Miraculeuse church, he has taken part in many similar Islamic-Christian gatherings.
For the past four years, he has participated in the annual event organized by the Islamic-Christian Union in celebration of the Annunciation. He usually recites the adhan along with the Quranic Surat Mariam, as part of the recital that features Islamic and Christian participation.
The annual event will take place on Saturday at 5 p.m. in Jamhour School.
Yamout hopes these initiatives spread love and security between people, and strengthen national ties -and many agree, but some do not.
In response to social media commenters who deemed it haram to recite Islamic verses in a church, Yamout said that so long as the aim is to promote tolerance, then there shouldn't be a problem. He added that some Islamic scholars say that praying in churches is permissible if statues of Christian symbols are not present in the area.
A Muslim attendee, Riwa El-Khodr, shared the video of the Médaille Miraculeuse recital on Facebook. She described it as a beautiful and touching experience that was an ultimate tear-jerker, saying that the initiative delivers a much-needed lesson in coexistence to the Lebanese society.
El-Khodr said that seeing a priest and a sheikh sitting side by side gave her hope in a more peaceful future for Lebanon after years of sectarian strife. She added that such recitals are crucial to Lebanon's future, hoping to see similar ones more often.
"It felt as if the sheikh was saying 'Please wake up people! We are not at odds with Christians, neither are Christians against us. We all have one God'," El-Khodr told StepFeed.
El-Khodr is a Sunni Muslim believer who prays and recites al-Fatiha in churches. "For me, being in a church is very peaceful and touching," she explained. "Religion is for everybody."
She added that being in a church strengthens her belief in the presence of only one God.
The scars of the 1975-1990 sectarian civil war still remain. With the same political class running the country for decades, it's no wonder the country has had a hard time moving on.
But, there is hope. Tolerance and acceptance are on the rise, and many are fighting against sectarian division.
Following the November 2015 Beirut bombings - when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Bourj al-Barajneh in the southern suburbs of Beirut - Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican nuncio to Lebanon, visited wounded Muslims.
Last Christmas saw several acts of support by Muslims in Lebanon. Students from the Muslim Imam Moussa al-Sadr Foundation sang Christmas carols in Beirut's St-Elie Church in Beirut. Plus, some predominately Muslim cities like Tyre and Tripoli lit up massive Christmas trees.
"Lebanon is more than a country: it is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West," the late Pope Jean Paul II said in 1997, and his words still ring true today.