Mona el Kik, a Maronite Catholic, hasn't moved back to her family home. For most of the past 15 years, she has lived in a two-room flat in Nabaa with her husband and four children. The family fled their two-story house in the Chouf Mountains in 1985. Her town was overrun by militias of the Druze, a religious sect with Islamic roots.
"We never went back because we would have been slaughtered by the Druze," she said.
When el Kik's family moved into the Nabaa apartment, the place was a shell. Over the years, they have transformed the space into a home. Pictures of Jesus Christ and St. George, the patron saint of Lebanon, hang from clean, plastered walls. The couches convert into beds for el Kik, her husband and father-in-law. Her three daughters and son share the one bedroom.
As the Muslim call to prayer sounds from a nearby mosque, she closes the living room window. El Kik, a seamstress, and her husband, George, a port worker, managed to raise their family here. But they look forward to returning to their land in Silfaya.
Two years ago, el Kik's brother persuaded her to visit the family home there. She arrived to find the house a scorched ruin.
"I couldn't speak," she recalled.
El Kik thought she would never return to the village. But a long-awaited compensation check from the government has enabled her and her husband to rebuild. Her husband has been tilling the land.
"I want to return to my village," said el Kik, 40. "We, as true Christians, the real Christians, do not hold any grudge in our hearts. One nice word from them, the Druze, and we forget."
Some Lebanese Christians hope the visit by John Paul will focus attention on the country's displaced people and the inequities -- they perceive at the hands of the government.
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Sunni Muslim and billionaire businessman, is spearheading the ambitious redevelopment of Beirut's ravaged cityscape. Already, several of the bombed-out landmarks of the city have been transformed. But Hariri has been criticized for concentrating his efforts on "stones," not people.
Despite the billions of dollars invested in the downtown project, about 35 percent of Lebanon's 3 million people still live on the edge of poverty. Hariri and others also have been accused of undermining Lebanese democracy by resisting free elections and eroding civil rights.
"The state that is being built today does not respect these values. And that's why Christians feel insecure," said Nassib Lahoud, a member of the Christian opposition in the Lebanese parliament. "They lost power and they did not gain a state that is fair and equitable to them."
On Sunday, Mona el Kik will rise at 4: 30 a.m. to attend a Mass celebrated by the pope. She and her family will walk to the port of Beirut, the site of the Mass.
"We are hoping he will take this Lebanon that we are living in and bring us another one," she said. "That all of us Lebanese will remain with pure hearts.
"Even if nothing happens," she said, "his visit will be a blessing."
Pub Date: 5/09/97