Lebanon shows Christians and Muslims can live together in peace in the ME

Downtown Beirut Churches Mosques are side by side
Where else in the world would you see a mosque and church side by side?

“It has been an explosive situation in the Lebanon for the past four years. But I’m amazed that while Lebanon is on the brink of an explosion the miracle is that there is no explosion,” Michael Zammit, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service regional director for the Mideast and North Africa, told me in Beirut last week.

His words reflect the fact that the land of the cedars, after experiencing a 15-year civil war (1975-90), finds itself today in the midst of a geopolitical conflict, which is being fought with particular ferocity in neighboring Syria but also by proxy in Yemen. But the fact is the Sunni-Shiite conflict has not spilled over to Lebanon in any significant way so far; the local political forces have not wanted this to happen.

The situation is tense nevertheless as the regional rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is strongly felt in this county, a third of the size of Maryland. Hezbollah, the Shiite political party and militia is an ally of Iran, and the main politically organized force in the country; it is able, to a great extent, to dictate the country’s foreign and domestic policy. After taking credit for liberating the south from Israel in 2000, Hezbollah is now playing a significant role in the war in Syria, in consort with Iran and Russia, on the side of Assad regime. Hezbollah’s ever-increasing influence caused Saudi Arabia to cut off $4 billion in military support to the Lebanese army.

Lebanon has been without a president for two years now, due to internal political rivalries. According to the National Pact of 1943, subsequently modified by the Ta’ef Accord of 1989 (which is meant to reflect the numerical consistency of the different ethnic-religious communities), the head of state is to be a Maronite Christian; the speaker of the Parliament is to be a Shiite Muslim; while the prime minister is to be a Sunni Muslim.

Apart from the fact that there has been no major explosion in recent years, the real miracle of Lebanon is to be found in the fact that, despite tensions, Christians and Muslims continue to live together in peace.

St. John Paul II, who visited the country in 1997, said, “Lebanon is more than a country; it is a message.” Indeed, down the centuries, it provided refuge for minorities and today is populated by 18 minorities: 12 Christian communities (six of which are Catholic), five Muslim communities (including Sunni, Shiite, Druse and Alawite) and a Jewish one. While figures are hard to come by (for political reasons, there has been no census for more than a decade), the Christian population is estimated at around 30 percent of Lebanon’s four million population, making it the largest percentage of Christian presence in any country of the Middle East.

Here in Beirut where mosques and churches stand side by side, the 140-year-old Jesuit-run St. Joseph’s University, with 12,000 students (one-third Christian, two-thirds Muslim), has played and still plays an important role in fostering a culture of dialogue and mutual respect, and its alumni have held high positions in the country. Its president, Salim Daccache, S.J., lives in the nearby Jesuit community along with 24 other Jesuits from 12 different nationalities including the former father general of the Society, Hans Peter Kolvenbach. The leadership of Jesuit Refugee Service lives there, too, and has a national and regional office in this complex, from which directs work in the country and in the region, where there are so many refugees.

America magazine



9 responses to “Lebanon shows Christians and Muslims can live together in peace in the ME”

  1. 5thDrawer Avatar

    “has been no major explosion in recent years” … Should send this bit of fairyland to my friends in Tripoli … should provide no end of laughter until the hunger pangs hit again.
    And Jesuits too … wow … !!#$#$^&**(!!

  2. xxpat Avatar

    The picture caption says: “Where else in the world would you see a mosque and church side by side?” The answer is nearly everywhere in the Muslim majority world. Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, etc. all have mosques and churches side by side. The high percentage of Christians in Lebanon make it unique in the Middle East. But Christians and Muslims living side by side in peace is not as unusual as this article assumes.

  3. SparklingMoon, Avatar

    A religion which does not inculcate universal compassion is no religion at all. Similarly, a human being without the faculty of compassion is no human at all.

    Our God has never discriminated between one people and another. This is illustrated by the fact that all the potentials and capabilities which have been granted to one nation have also been granted to the races inhabiting Arabia, Persia, Syria, China, Japan, Europe and America. The earth created by God provides a common floor for all people alike, and His sun and moon and many stars are a source of radiance and provide many other benefits to all alike. Likewise, all peoples benefit from the elements created by Him, such as air, water, fire and earth, and similarly from other products created by Him like grain, fruit, and healing agents, etc. These attributes of God teach us the lesson that we, too, should behave magnanimously and kindly towards our fellow human beings and should not be petty of heart and illiberal.

    1. Daniel'O Avatar

      And I call this the hypocrisy of fairy tales and the very wishful thinking of the gullible!

  4. Daniel'O Avatar

    Yes, Lebanon showed it before in 1975!

  5. SparklingMoon, Avatar

    In 628 C.E. the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. This document is excellent guidance for all the Muslim states for dealing with the Non Muslim minorities. The following is the text of the Charter:

    This is the document which Muhammad, son of Abdullah, God’s Prophet, Warner and Bearer of glad-tidings, has caused to be written so that there should remain no excuse for those coming after. I have caused this document to be written for Christians of the East and the West, for those who live near, and for those of the distant lands, for the Christians living at present and for those who will come after, for those Christians who are known to us and for those as well whom we do not know.

    1. Any Muslim violating and abusing what is therein ordered would be regarded as violator of God’s testament and would be the breaker of His promise and would make himself deserving of God’s curse, be he a king or a subject.

    2. I promise that any monk or way-farer, etc., who will seek my help on the mountains, in forests, deserts or habitations, or in places of worship, I will repel his enemies with all my friends and helpers, with all my relatives and with all those who profess to follow me and will defend him, because they are my covenanted. And I will defend the covenanted against the persecution, injury and embarrassment by their enemies in lieu of the poll-tax they have promised to pay.

    3. If they will prefer themselves to defend their properties and persons, they will be allowed to do so and will not be put to any inconvenience on that account.

    4. No bishop will be expelled from his bishopric, no monk from his monastery, no priest from his place of worship, and no pilgrim will be detained in his pilgrimage.

    5. None of their churches and other places of worship will be desolated or destroyed or demolished. No material of their churches will be used for building mosques or houses for the Muslims, any Muslim so doing will be regarded as recalcitrant to God and His Prophet.

    6. Monks and bishops will be subject to no tax or indemnity whether they live in forests or on the rivers, or in the East or West, North or South. I give them my word of honor. They are on my promise and covenant and will enjoy perfect immunity from all sorts of inconveniences.

    7. Every help shall be given them in the repair of their churches. They shall be absolved from wearing arms. They shall be protected by the Muslims. Let this document be not disobeyed till the Judgment Day. (Al-Wasaiq-ul-Siyasiyya, pp. 187-190)

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      And then everything got a ‘Hadith’ and some Fathead Wha’s attached to it.

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