MARI’s Participation at the Maronite Convention 

Edward J. Brice
Deputy Chief Editor of JMS 

Even before the crowds of conventioneers began arriving to register for the National Association of Maronites’ (NAM) Convention held at the Hilton Hotel in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, from 15-19 July 1998, the MARI display was set up early in the afternoon of the 15th and began attracting the earliest attendees as they walked down the immense corridor to register. We had one good shot at drawing people to our two tables which displayed the color and the black and white versions of The Journal of Maronite Studies (JMS) along with a few good histories and recommended nonfiction books dealing with various aspects of Christianity in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. 

NAM officers Thomas Michael and Ed Shiner were generous in making the hotel’s resources available to us. Two easels and two large  table-length bulletin boards were covered with old-fashioned legal-size, xeroxed photographs of the early Lebanese pioneers to the United States and their descendents dating from World War I to the 1940s. Enlargements of color photographs from the Journal and other seldom seen sketches of veiled Christian women among the refugees fleeing to safety from the massacres of 1860 in Lebanon and Syria, a Maronite priest in medieval religious garb, a full-face view of a present-day Maronite monk in color, and other such rarities drew the attention of eager and interested visitors to our two tables. The informatively captioned photos and sketches provoked penetrating questions from the visitors. 

From Wednesday until the display was disassembled late Saturday afternoon, visitors expressed interest in the Journal, asked questions and requested references on informative books and information about things Maronite and Middle Eastern. Other subjects of interest included: persecution today and the future of Christianity in the Middle East, lectures on "What Is A Maronite", and how to write a family history and geneology (at least a dozen packets with guidance and help in writing a history were passed out). 

Many visitors asked about the situation of Christians in Lebanon today, now that there is peace and economic development, and expressed a desire to learn more about that and about being “a real Maronite”. One American-born young man said that his Maronite family was of Druze descent and he asked for information about his Maronite faith. It was a pleasure to answer the questions of the scores of curious young and older conventioneers who wanted vital information on the faith, the way of life of Christians in the Middle East today and many other related subjects. 

Nearly each day at the time of the daily Mass, the display was abandoned.  The freebies were available throughout the four days, and about 50 copies of the color and the black and white versions of the journal were given away free of charge to the visitors to take with them to their homes throughout the United States. 

The Pittsburg hosts of the convention well deserve MARI’s thanks. I always believed the automobile decal “You have a friend in Pennsylvania”. I believe it even more now after those five days with the generous and hospitable people of the area. MARI met many old and discovered new friends there. 

Thanks a million!

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