Garden of Forgiveness
The Garden of Forgiveness, (also known as Hadiqat As-Samah in Arabic), is under development in the heart of Beirut, Lebanon, where it straddles the Green Line, once the battle line where much of the heaviest fighting took place during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Solidere is the private company responsible for redeveloping Beirut's Centre Ville.
The Garden of Forgiveness is designed to be a place of contemplation and reflection. It is inspired by the great human struggle to forgive, particularly in light of historic cycles of violence.
The garden concept was initiated by Alexandra Asseily in January 1998, following a vision she had in 1997 concerning the inter-generational cycles of pain and violence present in individuals, families, tribes and nations. As a witness of the pain of the civil war in Lebanon, she decided to explore her own responsibility for peace and became a psychotherapist. She came to realize that lasting peace in Lebanon, or anywhere else, would not be achieved until people were able instill forgiveness at a deep level of memory.
The garden, which is currently under construction, was designed following an international design competition which was won by renowned landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson. Gustafson also designed the Diana Memorial Fountain in London's Hyde Park and has won many other international competitions. The engineering systems needed to support the garden, including the protection and reburial of Greek, Roman and Ottoman structures, were designed by the international design consultancy Arup.
The Garden of Forgiveness Project in Beirut has many interesting aspects, some of which include:
1, Members of many different religious communities within Beirut and Lebanon have participated in the planning and development. This includes Lebanon’s main confessional groups: Druze, Greek Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Catholic, Shiite Muslim, and Sunni Muslim.
2, The garden is located in a site with a rich history. According to the site archaeologist, at least fifteen different civilizations have lived here, including Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Abbasid, Mamluk, Ottoman, French Colonial and Lebanese.
3, The Garden is located directly over the heart of the Graeco/Roman city of Berytus. The middle intersection of the ancient Roman cardo (running north and south) and the decamanus (running east and west) intersect within the garden.
4, The garden is surrounded by three cathedrals (Saint Georges Maronite Catholic, Saint Georges Greek Orthodox and Saint Gregory the Illuminator/Saint Elie Armenian Catholic) and three mosques, including the magnificent, newly built Mohammad al-Amin mosque and another which had once been a Crusader church.
5, Former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri took his last steps near the garden, before being assassinated on 14 February 2005. He is buried in a tomb which lies, together with the tombs of the security guards who died with him, at the edge of the Garden and near the Al Amin mosque.
6, The area surrounding the garden and the garden itself are being developed by Solidere, which is responsible for carry out one of the largest urban development in the world today, making Beirut a sought after destination for business and tourism.
7, Near the middle of the garden lies the ancient shrine to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of the Light), which was destroyed in the Civil War. Both Muslim and Christian women had prayed at this location for centuries to bring miraculous healings, healthy childbirths, etc. In 2005, this shrine was reconstructed as a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
8, An ancient heart shaped well, thought to be 3,000 to 5,000 years old, is also located in the garden and is believed to be related to Astarte, the goddess of love and fertility.
9, On 10 November 2005, three women who lost their husbands and sons in the 9/11 attacks in New York City, planted an olive tree in the Garden of Forgiveness in remembrance of their loved ones. They also visited a number of citizens who had suffered loss through violence including Bahia Hariri, the sister of the Rafic Hariri, Giselle Khoury whose husband, the journalist Samir Kassir, was assassinated in June 2005 and Rabab Sadr, whose famous brother disappeared during the civil war.
- "Garden of Forgiveness". Gustafson Porter. Retrieved 21 September 2014.