It is worth taking a moment to review the document titled “We Choose Life: Christians in the Middle East, Towards Renewed Theological, Societal and Political Options” which was released last week. Launched from Antelias in Lebanon, it was authored by an independent group of theologians and scholars in the humanities, geopolitics and social sciences from Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan, with peer consultations in Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
The urge to delve deeper into the issues facing Christians in the Arab world in general and in Lebanon, particularly at this time, is the growing voice of some Christian factions propagating what has become the alliance of minorities. , which, knowingly or not, promotes a national, ethnic and sectarian Iranian agenda. They do so out of the conviction that this strategic framework preserves their presence in the region and their role in the face of what they see as a Sunni majority that does not care about these communities or their role.
In addition, it appears that the region is witnessing a sort of institutionalization of violent extremism following the rapid return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. This is the first time that an armed religious organization has taken control of the state and enjoyed what looks like international recognition, whether direct or indirect. We have already lived through the 42 years that the mullahs have ruled Iran with consequences and repercussions nationally and internationally, with dire ramifications for the Iranians themselves and neighboring countries in the region.
The case of Lebanon presents a particularly relevant model for summarizing the mechanisms of Iranian expansionism and how it imposes a status quo that follows its course. Hezbollah and its allies were able to privatize security, establish a shadow economy, and monopolize decision-making on matters of war and peace, regardless of what remains of a fit state. He has imposed his will on the political class, sometimes subjugating and terrorizing them to others, destroying the county’s public administration and undermining the public good, and he now poses an existential threat to democratic identity, freedoms and human rights of Lebanon. The same is true for Yemen, Iraq and Syria, although there are structural and practical distinctions in the way this expansionism operates.
It may seem to some that it all comes down to political strife and a competition for influence, but this is a superficial assessment that ignores the truth of the conflict behind what is happening. is happening as Iran leads a civilizational struggle for the identity of the Middle East and its communities. Iran has propagated, in what is a discourse that intersects with that of Israel, the philosophy of the “alliance of minorities” through its use of local communities in target countries, and it has incorporated the idea that these minorities need protection.
Before integrating this notion, he built an ideological structure that relied on historical grudges by nurturing feelings of victimization among the communities that are part of the national fabric in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, with extensions across the region and the world. This happened alongside the rise of radical Sunni Islamist groups like ISIS, and thus emerged a vicious alliance against Islam and Christianity, as well as the national, Arab and Levantine identities of the daughters and sons of these religions. . We cannot ignore, in this context, the Jewishness of Israel, but to delve into it is beyond the scope of this article.
Kill Arab national identities and disintegrate the social fabric of countries, as well as entrench neuroses about “minorities”, promote “alliance of minorities” and integrate the conviction that it is better to seek the protection of totalitarian ideological regimes , whether secular or religious, all have demonstrated the civilizational background of the conflict in the region. The strengthening of sectarian tensions and the recall of memories of sectarian clashes made the Arab renaissance project and its modern formations disappear. The machines of murder and repression have conquered all options for building civil states based on active citizenship.
Understanding of the sources of legislation, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish, must be developed. The lack of such development has rendered elite participation in public affairs ineffective. Even the revolutions of the Arab Spring, in which noble slogans were uttered calling for freedoms, human rights, justice, a citizenship that transcends communities and accepts differences within the framework of a state of constitutional law, have been tainted. These revolutions were destroyed by an implicit understanding between religious and political authorities and an exclusionary political Islam. The hope of a civilized, human and modern Arab project has been killed.
This systematic execution killed the civilizational role of Christian or Christian Arabs in the Middle East, as well as that of Muslim elites. From there, the “alliance of minorities” necessarily intersects with that of “heading east” and replacing the term “Arab Christians” or “Christians of the Middle East” by “Levantine Christians”, taking them out of the country. provocatively out of context. The latter term is linked to what Russia did to create the Eastern Question in the 19th century, when it crowned itself the protector of such and such sects, which reinforced the violent options, as it did. done with its destructive intervention in Syria. Here there is no distinction between her and Iran.
In all of the above, the need for a rational and critical geopolitical approach to enable Christians to regain their partnership with Muslims in the Middle East and the Arab world is evident. The necessary partnership must be based on an active citizenship which embraces diversity, ignoring the assumptions of the “Eastern question”, “heading east”, rallying to repressive regimes and giving in to involvement in a deadly alliance of minorities.
From there, we hope the We Choose Life document will play its part in the dialogue to dismantle the institutionalization of violence and stave off the dangers it poses to the region. Certainly this is a step on a thousand mile path to reinvigorate a positive Arab Christian role, but it must also spread as widely as possible among Christians on the one hand and Muslims on the other. go. Consistency, endurance and diligence are all we have left to tackle the narratives sweeping the region from all sides amid the dubious neglect of the forces that claim to defend human rights and freedoms and resist to tyranny.