Ambassador's Exhibit, California

Honouring the Late US Ambassador Christopher J Stevens

 

Shocked and horrified were my feelings last year on September 11, 2012. I was in the Costa del Sol in Spain when I heard the news of the terrible attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya killing the US Ambassador Christopher J Stevens, a man who truly loved my country and had very high hopes for Libya and its people. Three other Americans and ten Libyans also died. Why?

Although we cannot bring anyone back, as Libyans we must stand up against violence and aggression and use all means necessary to declare the wrongness of hate. In this vein, I am happy that eight Libyan artists are partaking in The Ambassador’s Exhibit this month at the John Natsoulas Centre for the Arts in California, United States, to honour the late US Ambassador Christopher J Stevens.

This event is to commemorate the goodness of this man who lost his life in diplomatic service for his country and who believed in us Libyans, an another people. The artists are saying No to the politics of division and marking their sadness too. The eight Libyan artists are: Mohammad Bin Lamin, Najla Shawket Fitouri, Yousef Fetis, Mohammed Albadri, Musbah Kabeer, Hoda Ben Musa, Jamal Shrief and Abd Assamad Mishri.

Bin Lamin, who attended the launch, gave a moving speech, in which he said: "The Us-Libyan bond is older than the modern history that we know and it goes back to the 1800s. As we got our freedom back with the help of our Western allies, especially the United States, we are now determined more than ever to re-establish that bond and make it stronger.

“Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of those eager to open channels [culture, arts, media, music and education]; and his social activities and travelling inside Libya made lots of Libyans clearer in understanding the Americans positively."

Held from April 4 to April 20, 2013, the event's goal is to continue to build 'peace and cultural acceptance between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region' with paintings, sculptures and poetry brought from the Arabic world to an American audience.

To honour Stevens and his lifelong love and devotion to the MENA region, a fund has also been created to raise money to help make his dream a reality. To donate: http://www.rememberingchrisstevens.com.

Background Notes

On the day of the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, the news was mired in a terrible controversy over an amateur anti-Islamic film production deliberately created to cause offence, tensions and to upset those ready for any excuse to be violent.

There were demonstrations all over the Islamic world and many US diplomatic missions were targeted with American flags being burnt. In the end, the Innocence of Muslims was attributed to a miserable 55 year-old Coptic Christian male with a criminal record.

Whether or not the film was the reactionary cause of the attack in Benghazi or if it was in fact a pre-planned revenge raid mounted by Gaddafi loyalists was not initially decided. But, in the end, the Libyan President Muhammed Magariaf blamed elements of the radical Islamist Sharia Supporters with links to the Al-Qaeda network.

During that awful month in Libya, which also saw the destruction of holy Sufi shrines and mosques, I wrote: “These self-proclaimed Sharia Supporters think they can run anywhere riot without accountability. If they are not stopped or challenged, they will soon run after the women, the artists, the liberals and anyone else who doesn’t agree with their sordid and threatening ideology.”

So am glad that today these Libyan artists are having their say by sending their artwork in the spirit of of peace, love and mutual understanding.