Bring Down the Walls: Lebanon's Post-War Challenge by Carole H. Dagher

By Carole H. Dagher

“Lebanon is greater than a rustic, it's a message.” those phrases of Pope John Paul II illustrate Lebanon's post-war recreation to maintain its age-old Christian-Muslim coexistence and power-sharing formulation and to invalidate Samuel Huntington's assumption of a “Clash of Civilizations.” Lebanon's present problem is usually the problem of a complete area, the center East, the place the destiny of minorities, together with japanese Christians, finds the customers of democracy, pluralism, and political participation.

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Patriarchs Antoun Arida in the forties, Boulos Meouchy in the seventies, and Nasrallah Sfeir in the nineties, took a genuine interest in social issues and on the political level, they reasserted the national identity of independent Lebanon, as a promoter of Arabic civilization but unshakably opposed to any Pan-Arab or Pan-Syrian unionism. Yusif Sawda, one of the main Maronite political ideologues whose life spanned Ottoman occupation, French Mandate, and independent Lebanon, stated in 1956 that the future existence of the Lebanese entity based on coexistence depended upon preserving Maronite dominance within the state.

And thus, the strains that characterize relations between the West and the Arab world owe a lot to the Palestinian tragedy. The unsolved Palestinian problem illustrates “the persecution, exploitation, oppression, arrogance of the West towards the Arab and Islamic societies,” to use the common Islamic lexicon. 12 For here was exactly the point of confrontation with, not only Israel, but also America. From that very strategic vicinity to Israel, the Iranians would directly face the West and its aims and politics in the region.

Thanks to its resonance, it allows them to turn their defeats into victories, the way Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser did after the 1973 disastrous campaign against the Israeli army. The association of the Arabic language with Islam is probably the real drama of Eastern Christians. This drama reaches its peak in Lebanon, where Christians have been at the forefront of the Arabic cultural revival but are also the advocates of cultural diversity and openness and strive to remain the intersection point between Eastern and Western civilizations.

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