This morning we met with Simon Abi Ramia, a member of Parliament who is the head of the commission for Youth and Sports. As always, this was a very interesting meeting. Abi Ramia worked in France for 23 years and returned to Lebanon about six years ago. He is a member of the Free Patriotic Movement party. I was very surprised when he immediately stated that the source of Lebanon’s problems are their neighbors, Syria and Israel. Blaming others is an issue that we have focused on among the students in the fellowship. Placing the blame on other groups for problems within Lebanon is common, but creates a much larger issue because it avoids the reality of the situation and the real actors.
Abi Ramia informed us that his goal and the goal of the parliament is to make laws and examine the work of the government. He said that he is not directly involved with the people, in the sense of direct aid. He is very involved though in a social aspect with the people of his district. Abi Ramia shared that in the past two days he attended seven funerals and weekends are filled with weddings, baptisms, and other various celebrations. When he first came to office Abi Ramia did not want to spend time on these social things because he wanted to focus on actual policy making. However, the Lebanese society does not accept avoiding these social functions because of the importance of family and community. Therefore, Abi Ramia’s weekends and free time are filled with social events.
The budget for the Ministry of Youth and Sports is only $2-3 million in Lebanon, which Abi Ramia compared to France which he said was approximately $1 billion for the same ministry. For this reason, we can see that youth and sports are not considered one of the top ministries. However, Abi Ramia has a good argument for why Lebanon should spend more money on this ministry. He argues that sports cross sectarian lines and more youth sports groups and even adult sports groups would help unite the people on a different level than religion.
Changing the voting age from 21 to 18 was mentioned again. I’m not sure if I mentioned this on my blog before, but in one of our previous sessions we heard from someone who spoke on this issue. Abi Ramia simply stated that he supported moving the voting age to 18 and did not go into any details. However, our earlier speaker had mentioned that there had been groups trying to work with students to change the voting age, but students did NOT want to change it. The reasoning for not wanting to change the voting age to 18 was that the students are already so divided into sectarian lines and neither group wanted to unbalance the machine.
PS The photo is from sunset at the restaurant we ate dinner at, Pepe Abed.