Off key rhetoric

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai. (The Daily Star)

Christian politicians and clergy in Lebanon have been busy sounding alarm bells left and right. And the “Christians of the Levant,” as some of them have taken to styling themselves of late, are sounding all of the wrong notes.

The Christian presence in this part of the world is the common denominator of this rhetorical offensive. One problem is that these political and religious figures want people to believe there is a single community, “the Christians,” that is being singled out for persecution and oppression. They talk about the targeting and destruction of churches and other holy places, while conveniently forgetting the many mosques and Muslim places of pilgrimage that have been attacked or destroyed in recent years in Arab countries. They could, for example, remember that two mosques in Tripoli were the sites of two of Lebanon’s most horrific terror attacks in recent memory.

If these politicians and clergy wish to cite the example of Iraq, they should list each and every bomb blast or other destructive act targeting Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in that violence-ridden country. If they talk about Syria today, the same applies. And if they talk about takfiri Islam, they should remember that takfiris are by definition dead set against any Muslim who fails to agree with their hard-line views, and are thus deserving of annihilation. And if they want to talk about the reduction of the Christian presence throughout the east, they should do, provided they explain how this phenomenon has remained steady for the last 150 years.

In Lebanon, Christian political parties are worried about several specific items, and one of them is sales of land to non-Christians. This would be a huge problem if it were illegal, but since it is not, there is no valid political or other reason to raise the issue. And these defenders of the Christian presence should also inform the public about all of the instances where Muslims have risen up to prevent Christians from moving into their neighborhoods, villages or towns, to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation.

Officials from some of the country’s Christian parties have been meeting with one another recently in a bid to agree on ways to confront all of these so-called threats. However, their failure to agree and their appetite for engaging in bitter verbal attacks on each other only leave the public with no confidence in the ability of these “leaders” to confront today’s true challenges.

Some of these individuals have gone to the trouble of producing a documentary film warning of how Christians face the prospect of a “final exodus.” If they had been watching the news over the last few years, they would realize that everyone in the Levant – Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, Christians, Kurds, Armenians and others – are facing the exact same prospect, whether through emigration or an even worse fate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 14, 2013, on page 7.




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