Rise and Fall of Christian Minorities in Lebanon by Fouad Abi-Esber BA
in the Middle East are fast disappearing from the area. The Lebanese Christians,
who constitute the only influential Christian community in the Middle
East, are fast declining in numbers and power.
paper discusses the history of the Christian minority in Lebanon, and
the decline of their hold on political power, in favour of the Muslim
majority. It will focus on the Christian contribution to the cause of
the civil war and the Ta'if accord which brought an end to that war. The
paper will be divided into eight chapters. The paper will start by giving
a brief overview of the special influential Christian position in the
19th century and its survival during the 1860 civil war with
the Muslim Druzes. Then it will discuss the role of Christians in the
formation of the Lebanese Republic and Lebanese independence.
nationalism is looked at in depth, in order to discover the roots of the
civil war with the Muslims. Moreover, it was the existence of many different
ideological Christian parties that incited the civil war.
paper will concentrate on the role of Christians in the civil war of 1975-1990.
The main focus will also be on the causes of the decay of Christian status
in Lebanon. In 1990, the civil war 'is said to have'
ended* following the Christian
Army's General Michel Aoun defeated by the Syrian military. The paper
will show how at the end of the civil war, Christians were perceived as
losers and Muslims as winners of the civil war. It will demonstrate that
the role of the Lebanese Christians has became negligible and it is a
matter of time when the Christians will surrender their remaining powers
to their Muslims counterparts.
Comment: The claim that there was an end to the civil war is vigorously
rejected by many because 60,000 Syrian soldier and their secret
service continue to occupy Lebanon together with 5,000 Iranian Revolutionary
Guards, and thousands of Palestinian from Fatah, Popular Front "Jabha
el Sha3beyyeh" and other terrorists organizations operate and
have a freehand in Lebanon.
additional reading on the status of persecution of Eastern
Christians, please read detailed accounts in this site "Shattered
Christian Minorities in the Middle East," "Persecution
of Maronites and other Eastern Christians," "The Syriacs," "The Palestinian Christian: Betrayed, Persecuted, Sacrificed," and in
the Assyrian site: "Genocides
Against the Assyrian Nation" or in the "CopticWeb dedicates to the persecuted Copts of Egypt".
Status prior to 1945
OF CHRISTIANITY IN LEBANON AND THE ADVENT OF ISLAM
Despite the fact
that Islam prevailed 600 years after Christianity, the Middle East is
now overwhelmingly populated with Muslims, with the Christian minority
comprising about 14 million Christians or 10% of the population.
mainly Maronite, have existed in the area, of what is known today as Lebanon
since the fourth century, and moved in large numbers to Mount Lebanon(Jabal
Loubnan) in the eighth and ninth centuries. The Maronites took their name
from John Maron, a learned monk who was Patriach of Antioch in the 8th
century. The Muslim (Shiite, Sunni and the Druze sects) community emerged
in Mount Lebanon at a later stage.
Johnson traces the heritage of the Lebanese Christians directly to Jesus.
By the 5th century, Christianity became the dominant religion
in the area of Lebanon. After the forceful advent of Islam beginning in
the 7th Century, many Christian communities along the coast
of Lebanon converted to Islam. However, the mountains of Lebanon remained
a Christian haven.
Kolvenbach saw that the history of Lebanon's Christians and the history
of Lebanon were so intertwined that without the Christians, and especially
its Maronite sect, there would not have been a Lebanon and without Lebanon
the destiny of Christians in the Middle East would have been different.
civil war between the Maronites and the Druze erupted when Maronite
peasants revolted against their landlords who were given land ownership
by the Ottoman Empire. The Druze launched a pre-emptive strike against
villages in the north with the help of Turkish officials. Engine Akarli
mentioned that few Shiites and Sunnites, joined the Druze against the
Maronites and the Greek Orthodox Christians (even though the Greek Orthodox
had been friendly with the Druze before this incident). Akarli said that
the Ottoman troops themselves failed to stop the Druze attacks due to
their unwillingness to fight fellow Muslims.
civil war left more than 15,000 Christians dead and more than ten thousand
homeless. Later, however, the Ottoman foreign ministry imprisoned the
Druze leaders involved in the war, and even punished a number of Ottoman
officers and officials for having failed to prevent the 1860 civil war.
was the first Lebanese civil war between Christians and Muslims. It is
important to note that the Maronites had been subject to persecution by
the Turkish rulers over centuries. However, the 1860 war was the first
of its kind between the Lebanese people themselves.
hard to ignore the role of the Maronite Church in Lebanon in any study
of the Christian political status in Lebanon. The role of the Maronite
Church in Lebanon focused on strengthening the status of Christians during
the Ottoman rule. Following the purge of the Druze leadership by the Turkish
authorities, the Maronite Church emerged as the only significant institution
in the Lebanese Mountains. The Church's special position encouraged it
to aspire to greater influence. It was very conscious not only of the
overwhelming numerical superiority of the Christians over the Druze in
the Mountains, but also of the greater educational and material advances
of the Maronites.
events had created uproar in Europe, particularly in France. Although
the Turkish Empire took swift action against the Druze, a large French
force landed in Beirut for the purpose of protecting the Maronites and
other Christians. Foreign intervention by the French persuaded the Ottoman
Empire to form a small force in Mount Lebanon, which comprised of 160
men, 97 Maronites, 40 Druzes, 16 Greek Orthodox, 5 Greeks Catholics and
2 Muslims. Later on, Mount Lebanon was able to mount a military force
of 10,000 men where Arabic replaced Turkish as the language of command
and instruction. This development helped to strengthen the Christians
who were the main core of the force. Moreover Christians were happy to
be given a sort of autonomy by the Muslim Turkish Empire.
Spagnolo wrote that in this particular period of 1860, international communities
were looking after the interests of communities within Lebanon of a similar
faith. For example, Russia wanted three seats to be reserved for the Greek
Orthodox. In its turn, France wanted the Maronite representation to be
increased on the administrative council of the mutasarrifiyya.
of Christianity by the international community helped increase its survival
chances in the midst of the Muslim conquest in the Middle East region.
Marguerite Johnson noted that from the Byzantines and the Crusades in
the Middle Ages to the French and Americans in 1984, the Christians have
repeatedly relied on foreign powers to guarantee their survival and political
this section does not give sufficient information on the subject, the
following material is inserted from another article in this site entitled "Phoenician
of Islam and Christians of the East
By Dr. George Khoury, Catholic
Information Network (CIN)
During his lifetime,
Muhammad reacted differently at different times to Jews and Christians
depending on the reception they accorded him and also on his dealings
with Christian states. At first, Muhammad favoured the Christians
and condemned the Jews because they acted as his political opponents.This
is reflected in Sura 5:85 : Thou wilt surely find the most hostile
of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou
wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are
those who say, "We are nasara"; that, because some of them
are priests and monks, and they wax not proud. (Sura 5:85; see also
Sura 2:62; 5:69; 12:17).
Later he turned
against them and attacked their belief that Jesus was God's son (Sura
9:30), denounced the dogma of the Trinity (4:17), and pointed to
the division of the Christians amongst themselves (5:14). Most often
though, Muhammad adopted an intermediate position: the Christians
are mentioned together with the Jews as "People of the Book," while
their claim of possessing the true religion is refuted. (See Sura
:114; 3:135, 140; 9:29). And they will be punished by God.
Fight those who
believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and
His Messenger have forbidden--such men as practice not the religion
of truth, being of those who have been given the Book until they
pay the tribute out of hand...That is the utterance of their mouths,
conforming with the unbelievers before God. God assail them! How
they are perverted! They have taken their rabbis and their monks
as lords apart from God, and the Messiah's, Mary's son, and they
were commanded to serve but One God; there is no God but He (Suras
During his lifetime
Muhammad settled his relations with Christian political entities
by treaties whereby they were allowed to keep their churches and
priests, and also had to pay tribute and render some services to
During the period
of two hundred years following Muhammad's death, the attitude of
Islam to Christianity remained generally similar to what it had been
during the closing years of the prophet's life; Christianity was
regarded as parallel to Islam, but corrupt. To this extent, Islam
was superior. The outstanding consequence of this period, however,
was the impressing on the masses of ordinary Muslims the view that
Christianity was corrupt and unreliable.This, together with the death
penalty for apostasy, kept the Muslims in lands ruled by the scimitar
effectively insulated from Christian propaganda. Let us view this
more closely, considering first the period immediately following
the death of the prophet in 633 A.D.
of Umar I (634-644)
The year after
the death of the prophet in Arabia, the stage was set for a full-dress
invasion of neighboring lands. In 634 the Arab forces won a decisive
victory at Ajnadayn, and Damascus surrendered to Khalid ibn-al-Waleed
in September 635. Jerusalem capitulated in 638 and Caesarea fell
in 640, and between 639 and 646 all Mesopotamia and Egypt were subjugated.
The last links connecting these Christian lands with Rome and Byzantium
were severed; new ones with Mecca and Medina were forged. In about
a decade the Muslim conquests changed the face of the Near East;
in about a century they changed the face of the civilized world.
Far from being peripheral, the victories of Islam proved to be a
decisive factor in pruning life and growth of Eastern Christianity.
After the Arab
invasions have stopped, there arose the problem of administering
these new lands. Umar ibn-al-Khattab (634-644) was the first man
to address himself to this problem. Despite the fact that later additions
were made to it, it is agreed that the surviving covenant represents
Umar's own policy. The conquered peoples were given a new status,
that of dhimmis (or ahl-al-Dhimmi). As dhimmis they were subject
to tribute which comprised both a land-tax (later kharaj) and a poll-tax
(later jizyah) while they enjoyed the protection of Islam and were
exempt from military duty, because only a Muslim could draw his sword
in defense of Islam.
Greek Science Passed to the Arabs
The Christian community,
educated and civilized in the multicultural Byzantine east, was the
catalyst that brought modern education and learning to the invading
Arab tribes. By translating the works of the Greeks and other early
thinkers and by their own contribution, the Christian community played
a vital rule in transmitting knowledge. Later on, that flourished
in the major Arab contribution to the fields of science and art.
Some names of Eastern non-Arab Christians that should be remember
for this often forgotten and unappreciated fact are:
al-Qass, who translated Archemides lost work on triangles from
a Syriac version. He also made an Arabic of Galen's De Simplicibus
temperamentis et facultatibus. Qusta Ibn Luqa al-Ba'lbakki, a
Syriac Christian, who translated Hypsicles, Theodosius' Sphaerica,
Heron's Mechanics, Autolycus Theophrastus' Meteora, Galen's catalog
of his books, John Philoponus on the Phsyics of Aristotle and
several other works. He also revised the existing translation
of Euclid. Abu Bishr Matta Ibn Yunus al-Qanna'i, who translated
Aristotle's Poetica. Abu Zakariya Yahya Ibn 'Adi al-Mantiqi,
a monophysite, who translated medical and logical works, including
the Prolegomena of Ammonius, an introduction to Porphyry's Isagoge.
Al-Hunayn Ibn Ipahim Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Khurshid at-Tabari an-Natili,
and the monophysite Abu 'Ali 'Isa Ibn Ishaq Ibn Zer'a. Yuhanna
Ibn Batriq, an Assyrian, who produced the Sirr al-asrar. 'Abd
al-Masih Ibn 'Aballah Wa'ima al-Himse, also an Assyrian, who
translated the Theology of Aristotle (but this was an apidged
paraphrase of the Enneads by Plotinus). Abu Yahya al-Batriq,
another Assyrian, who translated Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Jipa'il
II, son of Bukhtyishu' II, of the prominent Assyrian medical
family mentioned above, Abu Zakariah Yahya Ibn Masawaih, an Assyrian
Nestorian. He authored a textbook on Ophthalmology, Daghal al-'ayn
(The Disease of the eye). Hunayn Ibn Ishaq, an Assyrian. Sergius
of Rashayn, "a celepated physician and philosopher, skilled
in Greek and translator into Syriac of various works on medicine,
philosophy, astronomy, and theology". Other Monopysite translators
were Ya'qub of Surug, Aksenaya (Philoxenos), an alumnus of the
school of Edessa, Mara, bishop of Amid.
For further details,
see book review: How Greek
Science Passed to the Arabs
The Ummayad caliphs
(661-750) lived as Arabs first and Muslim second. As a consequence,
their era was liberal in both political and religious matters. However,
during the rule of the Ummayad caliph Umar II (717-720) there arose
the concern to summon conquered peoples to Islam and to create favorable
conditions allowing an equitable or better participation of all Muslims
in the social and political life of the community. Umar was shocked
that non-Muslims should exercise authority over Muslims, and tried
to prevent it. In Egypt he removed some of the Coptic officials from
their positions and replaced them by Muslims, and it seems that he
applied this policy throughout the whole empire. He wrote to the
governor of Egypt: "I do not know a secretary or official in
any part of your government who was not a Muslim but I dismissed
him and appointed in his stead a Muslim." This policy of Umar
II was translated during the later Abbasid era into a major program
due to the discontent of many Muslims with the excesses and corruption
of the liberal Ummayad caliphs and the frustration that non-Arabian
Muslims, especially Persian Muslims, felt on being treated as second-class
citizens. Also due to external political circumstances and to the
unruly and socially disruptive conduct of some Christian groups,
Umar II reacted with some vehemence against the Christians. He abrogated
the jizyah for any Christian who converted, and imposed other demeaning
not be witnesses against Muslims. They may not hold public office.
They may not pray aloud or sound their clappers. They may not wear
the qaba', nor ride on a saddle. A Muslim who would kill a Christian
would be liable to a fine, not death. He abolished the financial
arrangements whereby churches, convents and the charities were maintained.
Despite these exceptions, Ummayd rule was characterized on the whole
by political as well as religious and intellectual liberalism. That
is why Ummayad caliphs, with the exception of Umar II, did not press
for or even favor, conversion to the Islamic faith.
With the Umayyad's
fall in 750 the hegemony of Syria in the world of Islam ended and
the glory of the country passed away. The coming to power of the
Abbasid dynasty marked a radical change in the balance of power within
the caliphate. In a vast and complex body such as the caliphate had
now become, there was an intricate network of party interests, sometimes
conflicting and sometimes coinciding. The recovery of the equilibrium
was thus no simple matter; and for the whole of this century, (i.e.,
the 8th century) the caliphs had as a prominent aim the framing of
a policy which would rally the majority of the inhabitants behind
it. In an Islamic environment, it was inevitable that such a political
struggle should have religious implications. First, and vis-a-vis
other Muslim groups, the Abbasid caliphate touched a number of risings
of Kharajites who refused to submit to the new rule. There were also
other opponents who questioned the legitimacy of the Abbasids' claim
to the caliphate. As for the Christians as well as for the rest of
ahl-al-Dhimmi, the Abbasid era would prove to be less tolerant of
non-Muslims and would either re-enact old anti- Christian legislation
or create new restrictions.
The Abbasids chose
Baghdad for headquarters, though for a short period of time al-Mutawakkil
(847-861) transferred his his seat back from Iraq to Damascus (885).
As the Melkites were few in numbers in Mesopotamia it was the Nestorians
and the Jacobites who under Abbasid rule shared more strongly in
the literary life of the country and brought greater contributions.The
beginning of the Abbasid caliphate until the reign of al-Mutawakkil
(847-861) marked the zenith of the Nestorian Church from mid 8th
century to mid 9th century. This prodigious success was made possible
by the great number of zealous and educated monks, formed by the
many schools existing at the time. In Baghdad itself, there were
apparently many important monasteries, groups of professors, and
students. There were, for example, the school of Deir Kalilisu and
Deir Mar Fatyun and the school of Karh.
In the last two
schools medicine and philosophy were taught along with the sacred
disciplines. Christian physicians and especially scribes exerted
some kind of tutelage within the Nestorian Church, and tried their
best to obtain for their community a more benevolent legislation
from Muslim rulers. Though the Abbasids showed tolerance towards
the other religious, non-Muslim groups, still their tolerance was
displayed mostly vis-a-vis some of their coreligionists who lived
on the margins of traditional Islam.
especially the Melkites who lived in the eastern provinces of the
empire, had much to endure. Before, al-Mutawakkil Abu Gafar al-Mansur
(754-775) imposed many vexing measures upon the Christians. In 756,
he forbade Christians to build new churches, to display the cross
in public, or to speak about religions with Muslims. In 757, he imposed
taxes on monks, even on those who lived as hermits, and he used Jews
to strip sacristies for the treasury. In 759, he removed all Christians
from positions in the treasury. In 766 he had the crosses on top
of the churches brought down, forbade every nocturnal liturgical
celebration and forbade the study of any language other than Arabic.
In 722, he required both Jews and Christians to exhibit an external
sign to distinguish them from other believers. Abu Gafar al-Mansur
also put in prison, for different reasons, the Melkite Patriarch
Theodoret, the Patriarch Georges, and the Nestorian Catholicos
James. Al-Mahdi (775-785) intensified the persecution and had all
the churches built since the Arab conquest destroyed. The Christian
tribes of Banu Tanuh, which counted 5000 fighters, were forced to
embrace Islam. Angered by the defeats he incurred at the hands of
the Byzantines, al-Mahdi sent troops to Homs in Syria, to have all
the Christians abjure their faith. However, many of these laws were
not enforced. For example, when Umar II tried to dismiss all dhimmis
from government services, such confusion resulted that the order
The Barmakid viziers,
of Turkish origin, who were the strong arm of the Abbasid caliphs,
seem to have manifested a certain measure of benevolence towards
ahl-al-Dhimmi (the tributaries) and especially towards the Christians.
It is only at the end of the rule of Harun al-Rahid (786-809), i.e.,
after the disgrace of the Barmakids, that some measures were taken
against the Christians. Harun al-Rashid re-enacted some of the anti-Christian
and anti-Jewish measures introduced by Umar II (717-720). In 807,
he ordered all churches erected since the Muslim conquest demolished.
He also decreed that members of tolerated sects should wear a prescribed
garb. But evidently much of this legislation was not enforced. Under
his son al-Ma'mun (813-833) there was in 814 a general persecution
in Syria and in Palestine. Many Christians and church dignitaries
escaped into Cyrpus and into Byzantine territories. Conditions under
al-Watheq (842-847) did not improve and were sad indeed for the Christians.
Under al-Mutawwakil (847-861) there was intensification of discontent
on the part of Christians due to harsh conditions imposed on them.
In 850 and 854 al-Mutawwakil revived the discriminatroy legislation
and supplemented it by new features, which were the most stringent
ever issued against the minorities. Christians and Jews were enjoined
to affix wooden images of devils to their houses, level their graves
even with the ground, wear outer garments of yellow color, and ride
only on mules and asses with wooden saddles marked by two pomegranates-like
balls on the cantle. Basing their contention on a Qur'anic charge
that the Jews and the Christians had corrupted the text of their
scriptures (Surs. 2:70; 5:16-18), the contemporary jurists ruled
that no testimony of a Jew or Christian was admissible against a
the law put the male dhimmi below the male Muslim in nearly every
way. It protected his life and property but did not accept his evidence.
Eight acts put the dhimmi outside the law: conspiring to fight the
Muslims, copulation with a Muslim woman, an attempt to marry one,
an attempt to turn Muslim from his religion, robbery of a Muslim
on the highway, acting as a spy or a guide to unbelievers, or the
killing of a Muslim. However, despite these stringent laws, the social
status of Christians was not that bleak. The consequences of this
anti-Christian legislation were mitigated to a certain degree by
the number and influence of some Christians in prestigious and vital
professions, such as in medicine and high positions of government;
e.g., Abu l-Hasan Sa'id ibn Amr-ibn-Sangala, who occupied the position
of secretary under the Caliph al-Radi (934-40), and who was as well
appointed as special secretary for the two sons of the Caliph in
935, and also Minister of Expenditure, and who rendered inestimable
services to the Christians. Because Islam prohibits the practice
of usury to Muslims, Christians exercised a certain monopoly on the
trades of goldsmith, jeweller, and money-lender. Consequently, many
Christians were rich and this stirred further feelings of jealousy
against them. On the whole, relations between Muslims and Christians
were peaceful and unfair laws were not always enforced.
However, the Christians
could not help but feel and endure the stigma of inferiority. Even
the literature of Islamo-Christian controversy should not mislead
us on their true condition in the land of Islam. The tolerance they
enjoyed was not the result of a state policy consistently upheld
by all the caliphs. On the part of the caliphs, it was mostly motivated
by their concern to protect and advance the sciences and the arts.
The Islamization of Syria and Iraq and other lands no doubt facilitated
Arabization. After the Arab military victory, there was the conquest
and victory of Islam as a religion when many Christians in Syria
and other lands converted to Islam to escape their oppressive and
humiliating conditions. Finally there was the linguistic victory
as Arabic supplanted Greek and Syriac.
Persecution of the Coptic Church
Christian Coptic Orthodox Church Of Egypt
Perhaps the greatest
glory of the Coptic Church is its Cross. Copts take pride in the
persecution they have sustained as early as May 8, 68 A.D., when
their Patron Saint Mark was slain on Easter Monday after being dragged
from his feet by Roman soldiers all over Alexandria's streets and
alleys. The Copts have been persecuted by almost every ruler of Egypt.
Their Clergymen have been tortured and exiled even by their Christian
brothers after the schism of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. and until the
Arab's conquest of Egypt in 641 A.D. To emphasize their pride in
their cross, Copts adopted a calendar, called the Calendar of the
Martyrs, which begins its era on August 29, 284 A.D., in commemoration
of those who died for their faith during the rule of Diocletian the
Roman Emperor. This calendar is still in use all over Egypt by farmers
to keep track of the various agricultural seasons and in the Coptic
For the four centuries
that followed the Arab's conquest of Egypt, the Coptic Church generally
flourished and Egypt remained basically Christian. This is due to
a large extent to the fortunate position that the Copts enjoyed,
for the Prophet of Islam, who had an Egyptian wife (the only one
of his wives to bear a child), preached especial kindness towards
Copts: "When you conquer Egypt, be kind to the Copts for they
are your proteges and kith and kin". Copts, thus, were allowed
to freely practice their religion and were to a large degree autonomous,
provided they continued to pay a special tax, called "Gezya",
that qualifies them as "Ahl Zemma" proteges (protected).
Individuals who cannot afford to pay this tax were faced with the
choice of either converting to Islam or losing their civil right
to be "protected", which in some instances meant being
killed. Copts, despite additional sumptuary laws that were imposed
on them in 750-868 A.D. and 905-935 A.D. under the Abbasid Dynasties,
prospered and their Church enjoyed one of its most peaceful era.
Surviving literature from monastic centers, dating back from the
8th to the 11th century, shows no drastic break in the activities
of Coptic craftsmen, such as weavers, leather-binders, painters,
and wood-workers. Throughout that period, the Coptic language remained
the language of the land, and it was not until the second half of
the 11th century that the first bi-lingual Coptic-Arabic liturgical
manuscripts started to appear. One of the first complete Arabic texts
is the 13th century text by Awlaad El-Assal (children of the Honey
Maker), in which the laws, cultural norms and traditions of the Copts
at this pivotal time, 500 years after the Islamic conquest of Egypt
were detailed. The adoption of the Arabic language as the language
used in Egyptians' every-day's life was so slow that even in the
15th century al-Makrizi implied that the Coptic Language was still
largely in use. Up to this day, the Coptic Language continues to
be the liturgical language of the Church.
The Christian face
of Egypt started to change by the beginning of the second millennium
A.D., when Copts, in addition to the "Gezya" tax, suffered
from specific disabilities, some of which were serious and interfered
with their freedom of worship. For example, there were restrictions
on repairing old Churches and building new ones, on testifying in
court, on public behavior, on adoption, on inheritance, on public
religious activities, and on dress codes. Slowly but steadily, by
the end of the 12th century, the face of Egypt changed from a predominantly
Christian to a predominantly Muslim country and the Coptic community
occupied an inferior position and lived in some expectation of Muslim
hostility, which periodically flared into violence. It is remarkable
that the well-being of Copts was more or less related to the well-being
of their rulers. In particular, the Copts suffered most in those
periods when Arab dynasties were at their low.
The position of
the Copts began to improve early in the 19th century under the stability
and tolerance of Muhammad Ali's dynasty. The Coptic community ceased
to be regarded by the state as an administrative unit and, by 1855
A.D., the main mark of Copts' inferiority, the "Gezya" tax
was lifted, and shortly thereafter Copts started to serve in the
Egyptian army. The 1919 A.D. revolution in Egypt, the first grassroots
dispaly of Egyptian identity in centuries, stands as a witness to
the homogeneity of Egypt's modern society with both its Muslim and
Coptic sects. Today, this homogeneity is what keeps the Egyptian
society united against the religious intolerance of extremist groups,
who occasionaly subject the Copts to persecution and terror. Modern
day martyrs, like Father Marcos Khalil, serve as reminders of the
miracle of Coptic survival.
the Coptic Church as a religious institution has never been controlled
or allowed itself to control the governments in Egypt. This long-held
position of the Church concerning the separation between State and
Religion stems from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, when
he asked his followers to submit to their rulers: ``Render therefore
to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that
are God's.'' [Mathew 22:21]. The Coptic Church has never forcefully
resisted authorities or invaders and was never allied with any powers,
for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ are clear: ``Put your sword
in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.''
(Mathew 26:52). The miraculous survival of the Coptic Church till
this day and age is a living proof of the validity and wisdom of
additional materials on the status of persecution of Eastern
Christians, please read accounts in this site "Shattered
Christian Minorities in the Middle East", "Persecutions
of the Syriacs", "Persecution
of Maronites and other Eastern Christians" or in the
Assyrian site: Genocides
Against the Assyrian Nation.
GOVERNMENT AND BIRTH OF SECTARIAN POWER SHARING FOLLOWING THE 1860 CIVIL
The origin of the
Christian hold of power in Lebanon can be dated back to 1861. In 1861
foreign powers imposed what is known as the "Reglement Organique" in
which the Ottoman government designated Mount Lebanon as an autonomous
Ottoman province to be ruled by a non-Lebanese Ottoman Christian governor,
selected by the Sultan, and approved by the great powers Of Europe.
The autonomous province was to become a special Ottoman governornate
or mutasarrifiyya. A new 12-member council whose seats were allocated
on a sectarian basis aided the governor. Aziz Abu Hamad said that this
system increased the Maronites power at the expense of the Druze and
opinion of one historian, Aziz Abu Hamad, Christians from 1861 were able
to be autonomous during the Ottoman rule. This was very crucial for the
development of their nationalism and their aim of forming a Christian
state. Many Maronites conceived the mutasarrifiyya as the basis
for an independent Lebanon that would be a Christian bastion and an out-post
of Western Europe in the Middle East.
Christian Druze confrontation spilled into the beginning of the
twentieth century. For
instance, in September 1903, Christian and Muslim clashes resulted
in the death of 7 Christians and 15 Muslims. An estimated 20,000
mainly Maronites, took refuge in the mountains until sectarian tempers
FRENCH MANDATE AND THE INCREASE OF THE CHRISTIAN POLITICAL INFLUENCE
power in Lebanon increased in September 1920 with the establishment of
the state of Lebanon under the French mandate. The creation of Grand Liban
(Greater Lebanon) by general Gouraud, High Commissioner for Syria and
Lebanon, was the first step taken by France to fulfil its pledges to its
traditional Lebanese Christians, especially the Maronites for the establishment
of a Christian state. The establishment of an independent Christian state,
with extended borders, and under French protection was the realisation
of a centuries old dream of Christians especially the Maronites.
Muslims in Syria and the areas newly attached to Lebanon (Akkar, Tripoli,
Beirut, Bekaa and the South), however, it was the final blow in a series
of demoralising events which had began six weeks earlier, with the defeat
of the Arab army at Maisalun, and the subsequent occupation of Damascus
by the French and the expulsion of Faisal the Syrian king from Syria.
Muslims were disappointed about not being able to unite with the Muslim
dominated Syria. Christians welcomed the French mandate power that sided
with them. The governance system, which the French designed for Lebanon,
favoured Christians over Muslims. The establishment of a pro Christian
system strengthened the status of the Christians in Lebanon and in the
Paul Naaman adjudged the establishment of the republic of Greater Lebanon
to the efforts of the Maronite Church, and considered it as the Church's
greatest accomplishment. Following the creation of Greater Lebanon in
1920, the relations between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon deteriorated
rapidly; Muslims attacked Christian villages in Lebanon. The creation
of Greater Lebanon set a time bomb by forcing Muslims, whose allegiance
was to Syria and to the Arab nation, to be citizens of the new state.
Zisser explained that the Christian population in Lebanon dropped from
85 per cent to 54 per cent once the new areas were added to the new region
of Lebanon's Mountain. The creation of Greater Lebanon would contribute
to their fall 70 years later, with the addition of those Muslim populated
Ofeish elaborated that the sectarian system was at work as early as 1920s:
in the first parliament, initiated in 1926s were allocated on a sectarian
basis. The sectarian allocation of top state offices also started to
take shape during this period, although the Christian elite predominantly
It is very important
to look carefully at the structure of the Lebanese political sectarian
regime. That structure has ensured Christian political dominance until 1990. The sectarian system was reinforced with the declaration
of independence in 1943 following the collapse of the French mandate.
President Bishara Al-Khouri (a Christian) and Prime minister Riad Soleh
(a Muslim) joined in an unwritten agreement, which was called the National
Pact set a new political system for Lebanon. It resolved to preserve the
position of the presidency for the Maronites, the premiership for the
Sunnis, and the parliament speakership for the Shiites. Moreover, the
Pact agreed to distribute parliamentary seats, cabinet posts, and administrative
and army positions at all levels on a sectarian basis. Sami Ofeish said
that the National Pact favoured Christians and in particular the Maronite
Pact cemented the Christian political power, which was given to them in
the 1920s by the French Mandate. It enabled Christians to rule Muslims
for the next 32 years until it started to crack in 1975. Certainly, Christians
enjoyed overwhelming control of the political system, despite the allocation
of the next two top political office positions to Muslims.
Mark Tomass noted that the Christians acquired the lion's share of sectarian
pervasive sectarianism was reflected in the constitution of 1943 drawn
under the French Mandate (1920-1945). It allocated specific government
posts to sect leaders. Because of their greatest and specific ties to
France, Maronite-Christians acquired the lion's share of posts.
All the above may
give the indication that the Christians were given the edge over the Muslims,
and, therefore, they dominated the country until the start of civil war.
maintained hold on power from 1943-1975
chapter argues that the Christians managed to hold on to power despite
the Muslims attempt to demand a far more share of power from the Christians.
to Brenda Seaver, the Lebanese political situation between 1943-1975 endured
periods of severe internal strain. The major causes of this strain were
the 1958 civil war, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the influx of Palestinian
refugees and the PLO's arrival in Lebanon1. These above-mentioned
events would serve as a catalyst for the civil war of 1975 and the fall
of the 1943 political system in 1990.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW STATE OF ISRAEL AND ITS EFFECTS ON CHRISTIAN_MUSLIMS
creation of Israel in 1948 greatly affected the cordial harmony between
the Lebanese Christians and Muslims. The reason for this is that some
Christian leaders publicly met with Israel. However, Muslims saw Israel
as the main enemy to the Arab world and that any cooperation with it would
be considered treason.
Antoine Arida was the first Christian leader to sign a Zionist-Maronite
treaty of 19462. The treaty laid down the guidelines for the
establishment of close ties and co-operation between the Maronites in
Lebanon and the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine, on the basis of mutual recognition
of rights and national desires3. The Christians made no secret
of the fact that they believed that they could benefit from the ties and
experience of the Jewish Yishuv4.
Zisser explained the reason for the Maronites seeking ties with Israel:
only thing the Maronites wanted was to recruit discreetly Israel support
for their struggles in the Lebanese domestic arena, keeping these connections
as tightly under wraps as possible5.
the fact that the parties involved did not execute the treaty, it shows
how Christians were looking for an ally to protect them from the enemy
within namely "the Muslims" who started to gradually distance themselves
from the National pact of 1943.
to Eyal Zisser, there were other Christian leaders who voiced their sympathy
to the Zionist movement publicly, namely the archbishop of Beirut, Ignatius
Mubarak6. Since the Muslims saw Israel as an obstacle for a
mightier Muslim Arabic world, they sought support from outsiders such
as the Palestinians in the early stages of the Lebanese civil war and
Syria in the later stages.
UNREST OF 1958
political power of the Christian political elite was challenged in 1958.
The country was shaken during this period. In 1958 Syria and Egypt came
together in the United Arab Republic (U.A.R) under full Egyptian command.
The union received support among the majority of the Lebanese Shiites
Lebanese government dominated by Christians was fearful of the supporters
of the pro Arab unity who were trying to topple the government. President
Camille Chamoun backed by the bulk of Christians was absolutely determined
to preserve Lebanon. As a consequence, only a small spark was needed to
ignite widespread violence8. Therefore on 8th May, unknown
assailants killed an anti-regime Maronite journalist in Tripoli (the Second
largest Lebanese city). Public order instantly collapsed in Tripoli and
the Muslim sections of Beirut, as riots extended into the mobilisation
of gangs and small militias by radical parties Nasirites and Ba'th9.
Chamoun, a Christian, asked the Eisenhower administration to curb the
civil unrest of 1958. The Eisenhower administration quickly responded
by sending 10,000 Marines, in order to shore up the government's forces.
Aziz Abu-Hamad cited that the Maronite-led government troops and the Maronite
militia battled an alliance of Muslim militias and their leftists and
Nasirist allies in Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre10. Aziz
added that the 1958 crisis was defused when President Chamoun dropped
his plans for a second term11. Christians and Muslims were
finally content with the election of the army commander Fouad Shihab as
the new president, and, consequently, the US withdrew from Lebanon.
During the 1958 civil
war, the Christian dominated government fought alongside the Maronite militia
against Muslims and leftists. Even though the 1958 war was caused by the
clash of pro Lebanese sovereignty and pro Arab unity groups, it reinforced
the belief that the Lebanese community was divided along sectarian lines.
Thus, the Christians favoured Lebanese sovereignty while the Muslims favoured
Lebanon joining a more desired unified Arabic league nation.
1967 ARAB-ISRAEL WAR AND THE PALESTINIAN INCREASED INVOLVEMENT IN LEBANON
Arab-Israel war further strained the relationship between Christians and
Muslims. This was due to the fact that the Lebanese political leadership
refused to commit its troops to the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The non-commitment
enraged many Lebanese Muslims12. After the defeat of the Arabs
in the 1967 war, the Palestinians started to launch attacks against Israel
from Lebanon. Israel retaliated by shelling Lebanese towns and villages.
Abu-Hamad showed that the Palestinian military action against Israel divided
Christians and Muslims again:
leaders proclaimed support for the Palestinian cause, Christian leaders
expressed their opposition to dragging Lebanon into the Middle East
Lebanese Muslims had only minority representation in the Lebanese Parliament,
they outnumbered Christians in 1968. This was largely due to the higher
rates of Christian emigration and higher Muslim birth rates. Aziz Abu-Hamad
explained that in 1968, Muslims demanded several government changes including
an end to the accord that reserved key positions for Maronites, such as
the Commander of the army and the Governor of the central Bank14.
agreement of 1969 gave Palestinians the right of autonomous administrative
control over their refugee camps in Lebanon. Christians objected to the
agreement arguing that it was a betrayal of Lebanese sovereignty15.
The Christians' anger compelled Christian parties such as Phalanges( Kata'ib)
and Camille Chamoun's National Liberal parties to establish military camps
for their militias16. These newly trained Christian militias
assisted the Lebanese army in their clashes with Palestinians in 1970.
Although that crisis was temporarily resolved by reaffirming the Cairo
Agreement, the Christian leadership, girded for the next round, determined
to uphold Lebanese sovereignty and the Christian character of Lebanon17.
army expelled Palestinian fighters in September 1970 from Jordan. The
move was aimed to stop the Palestinians from attacking Israel who used
to militarily retaliate by bombing Jordan18. Many newly arrived
expelled Palestinian fighters entered Lebanon taking advantage of the
1969 Cairo agreement, which granted Palestinian relative autonomy in Lebanon.
Aziz Abu-Hamad said that several Lebanese factions, mostly Muslim and
leftist groups, used the PLO's autonomy and political and military power
to press for greater participation in decision-making19.
the 1973 Arab�Israeli war, differences between Christians and Muslims
deepened. The Christians were upset to see South Lebanon a battlefield
between Israel and the Palestinians, while the Muslims took the opportunity
in return to show dissatisfaction with their economic and political status
in a Christian dominated political system20.
Nationalism vs. Muslim Nationalism
This chapter explores
nationalism in Lebanon. Nationalism can be considered as one cause of
the rise and fall of Christianity in Lebanon.
Zamir described the spread of Christian nationalism in Lebanon as one
of the three nationalistic movements that emerged simultaneously in the
Middle East. The other two being the Muslim and Jewish movements1.
very hard for people with different nationalistic persuasions in the same
country to stay unified. I will limit my study to the Christian and Arabic/Muslim
nationalism, due to the fact that Lebanon housed only few a hundred Jews.
Hanf stated that the Lebanese nationalists, mainly Christians, tried to
prove that Lebanon had existed since time immemorial and stressed its
independence and uniqueness. He added that Arab nationalists, usually
Muslims, tended to present the history of what is now known as Lebanon
as a provincial chapter in the history of Arab-Islamic empires2.
He added that there had been disputes about when which part of the country
was first called Lebanon, and whether one or other of the contemporary
communities was already a nation in the past3.
Johnson identified Christian nationalism in terms of their distinctive
cultural identity in the Middle East4. The cultural character
of the Christian community was rooted in their religious separateness
from the rest of the Near East and was nourished by centuries of long
cultural ties with Western Europe.
nationalism helped increase their survival chances in Lebanon. However,
it also contributed to their own downfall. Their nationalism clashed with
Muslim and Arabic nationalism. The Muslims showed an equal resolve to
claim Lebanon and tried to remove the Lebanese Christians from political
until recently, most Christian children were taught that Lebanon is a
Phoenician and a western oriented nation, while most Muslim children students
are taught that Lebanon is an Arabic country and an integral part of its
Islamic World. Many Christians believe that they are Lebanese and not
Hage reasoned that the Muslim Shari'a's differentiation of people on the
basis of their religious identity led Christians to become acutely conscious
of their status as a religious minority5.
biggest fear Christians have had is how to survive in such a Muslim
dominated region. This has prompted them to deny Muslims the opportunity
to turn Lebanon into an Arabic and Muslim nation. This was done by
spreading their notion of nationalism, which they associated with
Lebanese sovereignty away from Arabic and Islamic influences.
nationalism made the Christians reluctant to share their power with Muslims
until the commencement of the 1975 Lebanese civil war. They were worried
about their future as a minority, surrounded by a majority Muslim population
that was hungry to claim its fair share of power due to their superiority
of numbers. Lebanese Christians were always keenly mindful of past atrocities
inflicted on their brethren in the Middle East at the hands of the Muslims-
namely the demise of Armenians in Turkey and the persecution of Coptic
Christians in Sudan and Egypt. The majority of Christians associate themselves
with Phoenician roots and not to the Arab Bedouin (Originally Arab).
Najm did not agree that nationalism ran along strict religious lines.
He saw that Arabists, be Christian or Muslim, aspired to either annex
Lebanon to the "Greater Arab Nation" or to establish an Islamic or quasi-Islamic
state. Lebanese nationalists rejected this political stand6.
of nationalism between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon may be illustrated
by a recent incident surrounding the celebrated poet Khalil Gebran. Recently,
the American Maronite Union wrote to the American Secretary of State,
General Colin Powell, clarifying that the famous Lebanese poet Khalil
Gebran is Lebanese and not an Arab7. Their protest was to the
Middle East Descent Association in America, honouring Khalil Gebran as
an Arabic American in the presence of Powell8. Tom Harb the
chairman of the American Maronite union explained:
we certainly would not be opposed to any party that would honor Khalil
Gibran, we express our concerns as the identification of this great Lebanese-American
as an "Arab-American"9.
David Gordon discussed
the view of Muslims and Christians about each other. He outlined Muslim
opinion about Christians as follows:
Muslims rejected the maintenance of a Christian state. They objected
to the way power was distributed so that it enabled Christians, particularly
Maronites, to dominate a nation whose majority were Muslims. Moreover,
Muslims believed that power should be based not upon sectarian distribution
but upon the principle of one vote per person.
Muslims claimed that the Christian establishment has repeatedly sought
to split Lebanon, politically and culturally, from the Arab world.
They argued that the Maronites supported the crusaders and that the
Maronite Patriach Ignatius Mubarak had explicitly supported Israel.
Muslims argued that the Christian establishment had favoured and promoted
private and foreign education, in order to erode the position of the
Arabic language. Typically, Muslims believed that many textbooks had
belittled Arab accomplishments and promoted the image of Lebanon as
once a Phoenician and now a Christian state10.
view of Muslim nationalism was put succinctly also by David Gordon. He
explained that Christians believed that Arab nationalism was inevitably "Muslim". He added that they further claimed that Muslims were hypocritical
in calling for a secular state, while at the time never abandoning their
"personal status"(according to which matters of inheritance and marriage
are determined by Koranic prescription). Lastly, Christians believed that
integration of Lebanon politically or economically into the Arab world
with its authoritarian and socialist tendencies, would only jeopardise
the freedom and prosperity that both Muslims and Christians enjoyed in
Lebanon. Christians further saw that the realisation of Muslim demands
would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg11.
belief was that Arab nationalism was inevitably Muslim. This is true,
owing to the fact that the ordinary Arabic citizens and government stressed
the Islamic nature of the Arab world.
chapter explored how Lebanese Christians and Muslims espoused different
nationalistic views. The spread of this divided nationalism was made easier
by the existence of political and religious political parties, which I
will discuss in the next chapter.
4: Christian Political
Parties and Organizations
This chapter explores
Christian political parties, and their role in the rise and fall of Christians
in Lebanon. These parties have used nationalism as a vehicle to promote
their political platforms. These political parties were involved in the
1975 civil war. Moreover, despite the end of the civil war in 1990, the
Lebanese Christian parties still try to influence politics in Lebanon.
These parties' aim has been to be recognised as the ones who safeguarded
the Christians' rights in Lebanon.
Phalanges Party (Kataib)
clearly the single most important actor among Lebanese Christians in the
events leading to the 1975 crisis. In the early 1950s, the Phalanges became
a parliamentary party and a participant in the traditional game of Lebanese
politics1. It recruited non-Christian and non-Maronite members.
Yet, the Phalanges remained essentially a Maronite party and according
to Rabinovich, the Lebanese entity it envisaged was in reality Christian2.
summer of 1975, when it appeared that the preservation of Christian control
over the traditional political system in Greater Lebanon was no longer
feasible, the party, or at least its radical wing, opted for the less
desirable goal of a smaller Christian Lebanon based in East Beirut, the
Northern part of Mount Lebanon, and the coastal area north of Beirut3.
This sentiment was expressed through the publication of an interesting
pamphlet by the Maronite Intellectual Centre in Kaslik, under the title
Greater Lebanon a half century's tragedy. The pamphlet stated that the
creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920 by the French mandate was not in favour
of the Christians.
knew very clearly that their political dominance, which was safeguarded
by the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920 by the French mandate and the
1943 pact, was no longer possible. It was a sound strategy to opt for
a smaller country in which they could control and preserve their culture.
However, as events later showed, Muslims were not just interested in taking
power in Lebanon but also to prevent Christians from ever forming a small
or larger Christian Lebanese nation. As a result, the party was very interested
in protecting Christian interest in a country, which started to slip away
from them in favour of the Muslim majority.
party was divided between two schools of thoughts-the school of thought
represented by Pierre Gemayel's elder son Amin and that of Karim Pakandouni.
They believed that Lebanon's Christians could only survive by coming to
terms with their environment. It sought accommodation with Syria, with
Lebanese Muslims and with the larger Arab world. The second school of
thought was represented by Amin's younger brother Bashir, who, in the
summer of 1976, became the Commander of the party's armed forces. This
school according to Itamar Rabinovich is sceptical of Arab and Muslim
willingness to tolerate a Lebanese Christian entity in their midst, and
believed in the need to develop that entity's resources, the establishment
of an alliance with Israel, the mobilization of the Lebanese Christian
Diaspora, and the obtainment of American support4.
school of thought prevailed over the first one. When Bashir sidelined
his older brother, many believed that Bashir ignited strong nationalistic
support among Christians. He later became the President of the country
for twenty-one days, until his assassination. His brother succeeded him
but was much weaker than he.
army called itself the Lebanese Forces (LF). It mustered up to 20,000
troops, of which a core of 3,000 was a full-time soldier. Under the leadership
of William Hawi, and later of Bashir Gemayel, it evolved into a formidable
and highly organized fighting force. The Phalangist party practised conscription
in the area it controlled, drafting eligible young men to swell its ranks.
In internal fighting throughout the Civil War and up to 1982, the Lebanese
Forces consolidated its leadership of the Lebanese Christian Front by
assimilating other Christian militia, often by force5.
National Liberal party
The Phalanges� principal ally in the Lebanese front, Camille Chamoun's national Liberal
party, was a markedly dissimilar political formation6. A small
party organized around the person and personality of its leaders, it lacked
the coherent doctrine, elaborate structure, and large membership of its
senior partner, the Phalanges.
Chamoun presided over Lebanon from 1952 until 1958. He was a bitter opponent
and critic of Pan-Arab nationalism, and the only Arab ruler who accepted
the US president Dwight Eisenhower's doctrine, which was aimed to help
the Middle East nations fend off armed aggression from any communist nation.
It even offered to protect the political independence of such nations7.
The party is currently heading the opposition against Syria's presence
3,500-strong unit, also called the Marada (Giants) Brigade, was named
after a Byzantine border guard in ancient Lebanon. They represented the
interests of Sulayman Franjiyah, President of Lebanon at the outbreak
of the Civil War. It was also called the Zhagartan Liberation Army after
Zgharta, Franjiyah's hometown. It operated out of Tripoli and other areas
of northern Lebanon, but it also fought in Beirut. The military alliance
between the Phalanges and the Marada, which was evident at the start of
the 1975 civil war, ended on June 13, 1978, with a surprise Lebanese Forces
(LF) attack on Ihdin, the Marada headquarters, during which the Marada
commander, Tony Franjiyah was killed8.
Order of Maronite Monks
church has played a big role in Lebanese politics. It has sought to safeguard
the right of Christians. During the 1975 Lebanese Civil War, Patriarch
Bulus Khureysh, the head of the Maronite Church, did not have any political
impact9. On the other hand, the head of the order of Maronite
monks Father Charbel Qassis took the activist and militant line within
the Maronite church. The Maronite Monastic order, the owners of a sizable
portion of Lebanon's agricultural land, provided financial and political
support to the Maronite militias10.
of Maronite Monks militia consisted of 200 priests11. Father
Bulus Na'aman, another powerful militant cleric, later replaced Quassis12.
Rabinovich explained that Maronite monasteries were storing weapons, ammunition,
and food for Christian militias13. Priests saw the need to
protect Christians against Palestinians and Muslims who were threatening
the status quo of Christians.
The Maronite League
was a militant militia headed by Shaker Abu Suleiman, an ardent supporter
of Qassis. Like the Guardians of the Cedar (see below), it was a purely
Maronite militia without the inhibitions of the politically sophisticated
Phalanges and National Liberals. It, therefore, chose to fight alongside
these groups rather than to merge with them14.
Guardians of the Cedars
of the Cedars consisted of about 500 men15. Although they advocated
a non-confrontational confessional ideology, the Guardians have in practice
been among the fiercest fighters for the Christian cause.
and military leader of the Guardians of the Cedar, Etienne Saqr (nicknamed
Abu Arz), worked for the Faranjiyya administration in the early 1970s.
But ideologically, Sa'id Aql who sought to draw a clear distinction between
Lebanonism and Arabism inspired the Guardians. Aql's conception of Lebanon,
originating in and inspired by a remote Phoenician past, and contributing
to the development of civilization, minimizes the role of Islam and Arabism16.
of the Cedars were frank about their relationship with Israel, unlike
the Phalanges and the National Liberals, who sought to conceal their relations
with Israel. The Guardians argued publicly in 1976 that the Christians
should turn to Israel to ask it to save what was left of Lebanon. Like
the Maronite League, they maintained their separate organization that
fought alongside the larger militias17.
for "the organization". At Tanzim was originally a small secret society
of Christian officers within the Lebanese army who supported the Phalanges.
At Tanzim accepted members from outside the army, mostly from the upper
and professional classes. It fielded its own militia of about 20018.
1975, when major changes in the Lebanese political system were being discussed
seriously and a Muslim summit was convened to formulate a joint position,
a comparable Maronite summit was called for. The major Maronite leaders
Pierre Gemayel, Camille Chamoun, Charbel Quassis, and Shaker Chaker Abu
Sleiman met in the presidential palace19.
spring of 1976, the Maronite summit was renamed the Kafur summit. Camille
Chamoun was chosen President of the newly formed Lebanese Front. Its leadership
included Pierre and Bashir Gemayel, Bulus Na'aman, Edward Hunayian (who
had previously worked with Raymond Edde), and two noted Christian intellectuals,
Charles Malek and Fouad Ephrem Al Boustani. A joint military command was
formed for the various militias, whose new collective name was the Lebanese
forces were made up of four militias, the Phalanges, Chamoun's Numur,
the Guardians of the Cedars, and the At Tanzim. Two members represented
each. Despite the nominal parity, it was clear that the Lebanese Forces
were dominated and controlled by Bashir Gemayel.
the formation of an apparently non-partisan, all Maronite forums proved
very useful for the further development of the status quo coalition of
Christian leaders mentioned above20. Halim Barakat said that
the Christian rightists of the Lebanese Front have continued to resist
the elimination of political sectarianism21.
Army�s Christian Leadership
leadership within the army can be considered an important component of
the status quo coalition, which consists of Christian groups, which refused
to relent their power to Muslims. The Lebanese army's refusal to take
sides during the crises of 1952 and 1958 was a rare phenomenon in post-world
war II Middle East, where political history has been largely shaped by
military intervention and domination. The higher echelon of the professional
officer corps was predominantly Christian, and the army was seen as one
that was predominantly Christian. The army was seen as one of the ultimate
guarantors of both the Lebanese political system and the Christian character.
In the 1950 and 1960s, Muslim politicians repeatedly demanded a national
service law that would transform the army into a predominantly Muslim
force22. The bulk of the army was positioned in Beirut and
the centre of the country.
community had also moderate Christian politicians and public figures such
as the former president Elias Sarkis and Raymond Edde (the son of president
Emille Edde). They sought accommodation policies with the opponents of
the (namely the Muslims). However they did not possess the coherence of
an actual political school or bloc. Moreover, these leaders were willing
to concede a large share of power in the political system to the Muslim
community. They strongly opposed the notion of partition.
Christian role in the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990
The Lebanese Civil
war and its outcome changed the status of Christians in Lebanon and helped
their political decline. The Civil War started in 1975 and many historians
still do not agree on its immediate causes. However, Brenda Seaver cited
two events, which marked the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War.
event occurred in February 1975, where Lebanese fishermen's unions in
Sidon, Tyre, and Tripoli jointly protested the establishment of the Protein
Company, a modern high-technology monopolistic fishing company owned in
large part by former president Camille Chamoun, a Maronite Christian1.
Seaver added that the army began firing upon protesters mortally wounding
Ma'ruf Saad, the Sunni Muslim leader of the popular Nasserite Organization
of Sidon2. Following Sidon's events, street demonstrations
erupted virtually in all of Lebanon's major cities and intense fighting
occurred between Christian troops and gunmen aided by Palestinian commandos.
the second event, according to Seaver, took place on 13 April 1975, when
unknown assailants attempted to assassinate Pierre Gemayel, the leader
of the Phalanges, while he was attending the consecration of a new church
in the Christian Beirut suburb of Ain Rumana. Gemayel survived, but three
of his bodyguards died3. Seaver added that a group of Maronite
militiamen at Ayn Al-Rumana retaliated by ambushing a bus containing mostly
Palestinians on their way to the Tel-Al Za'atar refugee camp, killing
twenty-seven passengers4. The incident incited heavy fighting
throughout the country between the Phalangists on the one hand and Palestinian
militiamen and leftist Muslims on the other hand, resulting in over 300
deaths in three days. The first incident highlighted the Muslims' uneasiness
about the privileges that the Christian elite were enjoying. The protest
was not just a protest against the opening of the company, but because
it was owned by one of the Christian power brokers. Moreover, it followed
a constant outcry of Muslim leaders against the privileges and wealth
of the Christians.
the Cairo Agreement in 1969, which sanctioned the arming of Palestinians
in Lebanon, the Christians perceived the continuing presence of the Palestinians
in Lebanon as a serious threat.
above incidents are not the only factors, which led to the eruption of
the Civil War. The nature of nationalism in Lebanon has played a crucial
role in making the Civil war inevitable.
Khalaf noted that the Christians had a hidden agenda when fighting broke
out between the Phalanges and the Palestinians. The Phalanges wanted to
hold on for a few days and then engage the Lebanese Army in a Jordanian
style campaign against the Palestinians5.
may be indirectly blamed for the eruption of the civil war, due to the
fact that the demands of Muslims for more equality fell on deaf ears.
As a result of a fifteen-year Muslim boycott of the Lebanese state during
the French mandate, there was always considerable disequilibrium in the
civil service, which was made up largely by Christians. The disequilibrium
continued well into the independent republic: young civil servants appointed
in the 1930s reached retiring age only in the 1960s6. This
ably explained the reason behind the Christian control of the civil service.
fifties, Maronites and Greek Catholics Melkites and Sunni Muslims were over represented
at the expense of the Shi'ites. As Muslim communities lagged in university
education, Muslim deputies, parties and institutions were among the zealous
champions of the principle of proportionality or quota citing Article
95 of the constitution which stipulated an adequate distribution of civil
service posts among the communities7. Christians, with their
educational advantages, rejected the Muslim demand, citing that Article
12 of the constitution, stipulated that all citizens should have equal
access to the civil service and that the only criteria of selection was
merit and ability8.
example effectively explains that the different interpretation of the
constitution by Christians and Muslims had made them in conflict with
Seaver criticised the Christian militias, as they often seemed to act
in defiance of the Lebanese Front's leadership9. Ghassan Hage
cited Christian notorious atrocities on 6 December 1975. The day was to
be known later as "black Saturday", where more than two hundred Muslims
were brutally massacred by Christians. This event was usually explained
as an act of revenge for the killing of Christians in Muslim areas10.
Haddad recorded that Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in Tal Al Za'atar
in 1976 and in Sabra and Shatila camps in 198211. Rex Brynen
estimated that Christians killed about one thousand Palestinians and Lebanese
Muslims and evicted twenty thousand from the Palestinian protected areas
of the Al-Karantina and Al-Maslakh slum districts12.
between 1975-1990 were the darkest time for Christian. This was due to
the atrocities committed by the Christian militia and by the atrocities
committed on Christians by Muslims and Palestinians. Charles Sennott recalled
the war memory of one Christian villager Michael Abu Abdella from Damour.
Abu Abdella remembered the attacks that devastated his village Christian
community and had caused thousands to flee13.
the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, a Phalange faction led by Elie
Hobaiqa attacked the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and
massacred about one thousand unarmed refugees, including women, children,
and old men14. Israel was blamed widely for not intervening
to stop it once it had began15.
the Lebanese forces denied its involvement and the victims' relatives
have recently launched criminal proceeding at a the Belgium supreme court
against the current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was the Defence
Minister during the 1982 invasion.
6: Causes of
the Decline of the Christian status in Lebanon
of the Christian role in Lebanon was caused by four factors. Firstly,
the typical strife with the Muslim foes, secondly by internal Christian
division and fighting, thirdly by foreign intervention and fourthly by
voluntary and forced emigration of many Christians.
and social Christian decline can be traced to their struggle with the
Muslim majority. Christians were exhausted by their war with the Muslims.
Fawaz Gerges noted that Latif Abul-Husn believed that the 1975 war revolved
around three main issues: Reform of the political system, the national
identity of Lebanon and Lebanon's sovereignty1.
to Abul-Husn, the Christians could have been in conflict with the Muslims
over the three above issues. The Muslims wanted to reform the political
system, which favoured Christians. They wanted to translate their numerical
superiority into political power. They wanted a system, which they could
control. Moreover, they saw Christians as an obstacle to the formation
of an Islamic state similar to the rest of the Middle Eastern states.
The Muslims chose war instead of dialogue, due to the fact that the Christians
continued to ignore their grievances. The war was more destructive to
the Christians than to the Muslims.
a civil war erupted in the mountains between the Phalanges and the Druze
on a large scale. The Druze defeated the Christians. They drew no distinction
between their Christian supporters and opponents. Around sixty villages
were devastated, thousands of civilians were murdered, and tens of thousands
were driven out or had fled. The spiritual leader of the Druze, Sheikh
Abu Shakra, summed up the brutality of this phase of the civil war stating
that the Christians would never again live in the Druze Mountain2.
For the Christians, the episode was a disaster of a similar magnitude
as in the Chouf, where about fifty Christian villages were razed to the
ground in 19833.
Hanf noted that there had been radical changes in the southern section
of Mount Lebanon, the upper Metn, the Aley region and the Chouf. In 1975,
the Christians comprised a good half of the population, a decade later
about 1 per cent. The Christians were expelled from the coastal strip
in the first two years of the war4. They were eradicated from
certain areas and replaced by Muslims. There were several wars between
Christians and Muslims but the 1983 Mountain war stands as the most significant
war, which caused the death of thousands of Christians and expelled them
from the Mountain area.
end of the civil war in 1990, as Christian-Muslim relations improved,
many Christians started to return to their villages. The government even
started to financially aid them to renovate or build new houses.
with the Muslims caused the Christians to slowly surrender their traditional
hold of power and opted to emigrate seeking a better future.
of the Christian power in Lebanon can be also traced to internal divisions
and infighting among the Christians themselves. The Phalanges saw that
the Maronite political pluralism ought perhaps to be tolerated, but the
community's military power had to be under one authority, and that authority
had to be theirs5. For this reason the Phalanges sought to
break the independent power of their two principal partners, the Franjiyya
and the Liberal National Party. The relations with Franjiyya worsened
after they disagreed over relations with Syria.
sought to expand their party organization into Northern Lebanon and to
undermine the Franjiyya family's economic base by disputing Franjiyya's
right to raise levies in the heavily industrialised region around Chekka,
South of Tripoli6. Franjiyya responded to the challenge by
killing the chief Phalanges organiser, Jud Bayeh. The Phalanges retaliated
by shelling Tony Franjiyya's home in the village of Ehden, killing him
and his immediate family in June 19787. Itamar Rabinovich questioned
whether or not his assassination had been planned; it is obvious that
excessive brutality divided the Christian camp8. Franjiyya
accused Lebanese Forces of collaboration with Israel and opted to side
Bashir Gemayel's militia destroyed the military infrastructure of the
Tigers, the National Liberal Party's militia, in the Beirut area. The
Phalanges sought to expand their mandate and their demographic and territorial
bases by becoming the representative authority for all Lebanese Christians
not just the Maronites10.
January 1990, after the Lebanese forces announced its reluctant endorsement
of the Ta'if Accord, Michel Aoun had to consolidate his position with
his Christian constituency. He attempted to wrest control of the small
Christian area between Beirut and Jebail, but in the process inaugurated
a Christian civil war in January 199011. Kail Ellis commented
that the conflict lasted until July of that year and ended without a clear-cut
victory for Aoun12. Before the fighting stopped in mid-March,
nearly 750 civilians had been killed and 3,000 wounded, but the Lebanese
Forces continued to support the new accord13. Ellis noted that
the war had negative political consequences for the Christian community
and that it was estimated that the war had caused $1.2 billion in property
reason for the decline of Christian influence in Lebanon is that not all
Christians shared the dream of a Christian state. For example, Christian
members of both Lebanese communists and the national progressive parties
aimed for a non-secular political system and called for the abolition
of the religious based political system. Theodore Hanf noted that the
civil war between the Christian communities had weakened them more than
all the previous attacks of Lebanese and foreign foes15.
relations with foreign powers have also contributed to their decline.
In the words of Lebanon's premier columnist, Ghassan Tueni, it was the
others' war. Lebanon was used as a battlefield for the ongoing clashes
in the Middle East and the superpower rivalries resulting from the cold
Zisser commented that stronger relations between Israel and the Lebanese
Maronite community inevitably led to the civil war in Lebanon in 197517.
Eyal added that such relations were founded on the common belief that
Jews and Maronites must forge a strong alliance to ward off hostile Muslim-Arab
Seaver outlined that without Palestinians; the Lebanese system might have
the very least, if the Palestinian problem had never existed, there
would have been more time for strong elites to emerge who could have
dealt with the difficulties of modernization by carrying on the Shihab
tradition of social reforms and instituting moderate political reforms19,
Seaver gave an accurate analysis of the Palestinians contribution to the
collapse of the Lebanese political system. The Palestinians might have
tried to turn Lebanon into an alternative permanent state, as compensation
for their homeland. The Palestinians' interference worsened the already
tense relations between Christians and Muslims. Despite the several episodic
civil wars between Muslims and Christians, the whole population had co-operated
together for many centuries.
has also played a big role in the decline of the Christian's role in Lebanon,
despite its initial intervention militarily in their favour in 1976. When
in 1976, the Lebanese National Movement LMN that was fighting Christian
forces was about to gain victory over the Christian; the Syrians intervened,
explicitly stating that their reason for doing so was to help the Christians20.
Hage explored the reasons behind Syria's help for the Christians in 1976:
however, it aimed to avoid the creation of a mini Christian state that
the Christians would have proclaimed in all likelihood in the areas
that remained under their control21.
is important to note that Syria helped the Christians to secure a foothold
in Lebanon. However, the Christian leaders, who governed Lebanon at the
start of the civil war, failed to predict the implication of Syria's initial
friendly intervention in Lebanon. Rex Brynen noted that the massive Syrian
military intervention in Lebanon served to Arabize the Lebanese civil
war, substantially shifting the conflict from its initial Lebanese social
and political bases to the broader regional arena22.
between the Christians and the Syrians was short lived. Ghassan Hage said
that following Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's trip to Jerusalem, an
Israeli conceived peace plan (what became known as the �Begin plan') emerged
allowing for a role of the Christian Right, namely the Phalanges. They
did not hesitate to grab the opportunity and quickly turned against Syria23.
7, 1978 a limited armed confrontation between the Syrians and some Christian
elements of the Lebanese army took place. Soon after, this confrontation
developed into a full-scale war24. The Begin plan allowed Israel
to invade and stay in South Lebanon until a permanent solution prevented
the Palestinian guerrilla from returning25. Here, the Christians
represented by the Lebanese Front, took its most extremist stand on the
Palestinian presence in Lebanon and called for the elimination of the
Palestinians armed presence26. Syria was furious at the Christians'
apparent siding with Israel and so began bombardment of the Christian
quarters of Beirut27.
Hage presented the reasons for the Syrian aggression against the Christians:
was a reflection of the frustration of Syrian President Assad to see
the Christian rightists, whom he had basically saved, and whom he had
attempted to handle with the utmost care, move away from him with ease28.
was some notion in 1978 that Syria and the Muslims wanted to eradicate
the uniqueness of Lebanon and the Christian presence in it. This led Camille
Chamoun to call on the �civilised world' to stop the Syrian bombardment
of the Christian area29.
civilians paid a high price for the political mistakes of their own leaders.
Those leaders did not foresee that Syria would demand full support for
its policies, which shifted again to support the Palestinian presence
in the South, something that is against the Christian's principle of a
free Lebanon. The civilians were bombed every time their leaders disagreed
with Syria or the Muslim militias, namely the Lebanese national movement.
Harris saw that the conflict was not between Christians and Muslims, but
between Christians and Syria:
struggle for Lebanon was conducted between Maronite leaders in East
Beirut and Hafiz al-Asad in Damascus-not between Christians and Muslims,
and certainly not between Christians and Shi'is30.
Following the end
of the civil war in 1990, the political power of the Christians declined
even further. Alan George described how the Maronites were marginalized:
selective representation in the political hierarchy and the exile or
imprisonment of leading political figures31.
Christians' position declined even further, when a major ally of the past,
the United States, refrained from urging Syria to withdraw. In 1958, the
United States rushed to help president Camille Chamoun to quell a rebellion,
which was staged, by Muslims and followers of former Egyptian president
Abdel Nasser. Later, however, The United States abandoned its role in
Lebanon, owing to the fact that in 1983 the American embassy in Ain al-Mreisse
was demolished by a suicide bomb attack that killed more than 60 people32.
Six months later, suicide bombers made simultaneous attacks on the multinational
force that arrived a year earlier at the request of President Amin Gemayel.
The results of the attacks were devastating when 58 French paratroopers
and 241 Americans marines were killed. Finally the Americans pulled out
in Lebanon felt uneasy about the United States failure to demand Syria's
withdrawal from Lebanon. Jose Navalpotro wrote that the United States
believed that the timetable for the Syrian withdrawal was a matter that
should be resolved between Damascus and Beirut33. He added
that Washington does not regard this question as an important issue in
the overall stability of the Middle East, or a pivotal matter to be resolved
in the Arab-Israeli peace process34.
Emigration from Lebanon, in large numbers, also contributed to the decline
of the Christian influence in Lebanon. Both Muslims and Christians fled
Lebanon, but far more Christians left. From a pre-war Lebanese population
of roughly 4 million, 500,000 of the 700,000 who emigrated were Christian.
Just how many Christians remain in Lebanon is in dispute. There are no
official population figures for Lebanon. Some estimate that about 1 million
residents or 25 percent of the country are Christians. This figure is
less than half of the nearly 60 per cent majority of the early 1970s.
Harris saw that Christian numbers declined in Lebanon as the years went
by: 1911 79%, 1921 55%, 1932 51%, 1943 52%, 1970 42%, 1990 35%35.
It is hard to see the Christians current decline in status to be reversed
in the view of Harris's statistics. It is very plausible that the number
of Christians will become negligible in 50 years and thus their presence
in the Middle East will be in jeopardy. Christians need to have the numbers
in order to have a legitimate claim to sharing power with the Muslims.
Charles M.Sennott quoted a Christian lawyer Nehmatalla Abi Nasr talking
about the effect of Christian migration:
Christians leave for opportunity in the West or to get away from the
war,'he says,'Then they lose more and more influence here, and then
they are increasingly afraid to return. This process feeds on itself."36.
of many Christians from Lebanon has indeed contributed to their political
decline in a nation, where they used to be the majority. The voluntary
migration adds to the fact that thousands and thousands of Christians
died in a war or faced expulsion from their own houses and lands. The
Maronite patriarch, Cardinal Nsrallah Boutrous Sfeir, complains stridently
that an upsurge in non-Christian immigration to Lebanon, coupled with
the government's recent decision to grant citizenship to a large number
of Muslims, is weakening the Christian voice in Lebanon,37
End of the Lebanese Civil War and the Ta'if Agreement the �last straw'.
Civil war ended in 1990 following the defeat of the Lebanese Army leader
Aoun by Syria's intervened military. William Harris saw the collapse of
the autonomous Christian enclave of East Beirut as a blow to Christian
power in Lebanon1.
had not just faced a traumatic end to their autonomy on 13 April, but
they had to face the consequences of the implementation of the Ta'if agreement,
which reduced their power in favour of the Muslims.
30th of September 1989, the Arab League plan, hereafter referred
to as the Ta'if Accord, was signed in the resort city of Ta'if. The 62
Lebanese members of Parliament, 85 percent of the surviving 73 members
who met in Saudi Arabia, included 31 Christian and 31 Muslim deputies2.
Many Christians considered that this agreement as the single event that
sealed their downfall. The agreement united the nation but failed to give
the Christians the necessary guarantee for their survival.
the Ta'if agreement, more ambitious Islamic leaders found an opportunity
to consolidate their political gains, and gradually eliminated the Christian
presence from the national government3. Catholic leaders were
against the new agreement. Jose Navalpotro wrote:
Sfeir put the question in sharp relief. Without a strong Christian presence
in government, he asked, what would be the incentive to maintain an
independent Lebanon? And without a clear agreement with their Muslim
neighbours, how could a Christian minority in one small country expect
to survive in an"Islamic ocean?".
Ta'if agreement emphasized three factors: Firstly, that the new preamble
to the constitution unequivocally stressed Lebanon's Arab identity and
affiliation. Secondly, that the new preamble should state that Lebanon's
system should be based on social justice and equality between all citizens
in rights and duties without any differentiation and preference. Thirdly
it called for the abolition of political sectarianism.
Ofeish asserted that Ta'if addressed the causes of the Lebanese Civil
War5. Article 24 of the Ta'if accord presents the guidelines
for the sectarian distribution of seats in parliament. This article affirms
that, until parliament enacts non-sectarian electoral laws, parliamentary
seats should be distributed equally between Christians and Muslims6.
Sami Ofeish commented that the principles of sectarian "proportional representation" were not implemented accurately in the past and they did not accommodate
the demographic changes showing Muslims as the numerical majority beginning
in the 1960s7.
The Ta'if �s agreement improved the position of the prime minister at the expense
of the President's traditional functions. According to article 64, the
Prime Minister is now the one who heads the government and acts as its
representative. The Parliamentary Speaker (A Shiite)'s term is extended
to four years instead of one as in the past according to article 44.
Presidency was rendered to be more symbolic. Sami Ofeish wrote that despite
the fact that the President is still the head of the state (Article 49),
his executive power lies mainly with the council of ministers (Article
17), and the president shares the decision-making with the Prime Minister
and the council8.
can clearly see, three Presidents rule Lebanon equally, the President
of the Republic, the President of Council of Ministers and the President
of the Chamber of Deputies. It is important to see that Ta'if reduced
the Christian political power in Lebanon in favour of the Muslims.
Asmar saw that the Ta'if agreement did not provide any solutions to the
Lebanese political power:
was also to have signalled a thaw in inter-confessional hostilities,
but instead it may have simply frozen animosities while facilitating
the restoration of a central government, leaving unresolved the vital
issue of inter-confessional relations, especially at the level of the "street9.
One of the consequences
of the Ta'if agreement was the signing of a treaty of brotherhood, cooperation
and coordination between Syria and Lebanon10. A majority
of Christians voiced their concern about the treaty. William Harris
commented on the Christian opposition to Ta'if:
Christians rejected the Ta'if regime, as they felt alienated both
from Christian participants in the government and from other Christian
parties, principally the Kata'ib and the LF, which had accepted the
new order but dissented on details11.
boycotted the first post Ta'if�s agreement election in 1992. Judith
Harik noted that the Lebanese Maronite community feared that a new
parliament would enact laws to end its privileged position in Lebanese
society and politics12. The Maronites wanted the Syrians
out of Lebanon, and believed that elections held before the Syrians
departure might be unduly influenced by Syria at their expense13.
Judith Harik stated that the Christians boycotted the 1992 election,
because they felt that the new parliament would not represent their
fears were to become a reality when a pro Syrian President was elected
in 1993. The new parliaments after 1990 did not contain strong nationalist
Christians as before. In the last election of 2000, only a few Christian
nationalists were elected, in contrast to 1972 where most Christian members
of parliament were Christian nationalists.
of the Christian political influence coincided with the economic rise
of the Muslims. Jose Navalpotro wrote:
Hariri's regime, the financial aid which is flowing into the country
from other Arabic nations is being directed toward institutions controlled
long time financial superiority over Muslims has finally come to an end.
Other Arabic countries are financially aiding Muslim institutions. Muslim
wealth has doubled since the end of the civil war in 1990. It is no secret
that the current Prime Minister Rafic Hariri's private company Solidaire
owns the central business district of Beirut. Moreover, it tenders all
government major construction work. Muslim new wealth is channelling new
financial and political power for the Muslims. Moreover, the poor Shi'ite
area of the South is attracting more government and overseas developments.
the Christian leaders who remain active in Lebanon, there is a fervent
desire for new negotiations. That desire is based on the recognition that
they are rapidly losing their political influence. The principal institutions
that could offer them access to power are now closed to Christians, or
at least offer only the hope of a minor role.
Navalpotro noted that there is an absence of strong Christian leadership.
He observed that the former Lebanese army commander Michel Aoun is in
exile in France, the former president Amin Gemayel was residing in the
United States for several years after the end of his presidency in 1988,
and Dory Chamoun, who succeeded his assassinated brother Danny, has been
unable to mount the sort of sustained and strategic action that would
give a sense of new hope to his followers16. The Gemayel family
finally returned in 2000 and Amin Gemayel's son Pierre was elected to
the parliament in late 2000.
of strong Christian leaders impedes the Christian community of exercising
a powerful influence as in the past. The decline of Christian influence
will even increase if there continues to be an absence of a strong Christian
leader who mobilizes his community and enables it to survive. Another
important Christian leader, Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese forces
militia, is currently in prison. Navalpotro wrote that in March 1994 the
government outlawed his Lebanese forces party, and arrested him. He was
accused of engineering the bombing of a Catholic church in Beirut and
the assassination of Danny Chamoun.
bishops pointed out in their public denunciation of Geagea's imprisonment
that the government had produced no evidence to sustain the charges17.
Since the formal conclusion of the Lebanese civil war on October 13, 1990,
many episodes have borne testimony to the steadily diminishing influence
of the Christians in Lebanon.
Chamoun, the key leader among Maronite Christians, is assassinated,
along with his family.
Sfeir denounces the Syria-Lebanon pact, saying that it compromises the
nation's sovereignty and undermines the "national pact" of 1943.
Michel Aoun, the latest Christian leader to emerge as a national power
broker, is sent into exile in France, and prohibited from returning
to Lebanon for five years.
organise a boycott of legislative elections; between 70 and 85 percent
of all Catholics refuse to participate. One Christian deputy was elected
by just winning forty votes18.
rioting breaks out in the region of Chouf. The bishops of Lebanon speak
out against the purchase of lands in Christian neighbourhoods, which
they point out is changing the demographic face of the nation.
Three terrorists die in the premature explosion of a bomb they were
preparing at the site of a meeting of Orthodox and Catholic bishops
Christian political leaders are the targets in a series of arrests;
several are taken to Damascus and held there.
A Christian cemetery is desecrated in Mansourieh, an apparent warning
to Christians that they should not celebrate Christmas.
February � A bomb placed in a Catholic Church explodes during Mass,
killing eight worshippers; the terrorist act following several days
after the massacre of Muslims by an Israeli extremist in Hebron.
minister Hariri ordered the shut down of ICN television and the Nida'al
Watan daily newspaper after they expressed concerns by Christians over
the prime minister's land purchases in traditionally Christian areas19.
The Maronite bishops issued a new warning about the loss of equilibrium
between Christians and Muslims in the nation's government.
January-A group of Islamic militants stormed a Christian village
killing one resident, while engaging in fighting with the Lebanese Army.
Maronite Bishops' council called for the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon,
thus voicing a Christian protest to such presence.
freed about 50 mostly Lebanese Christians political prisoners. However,
human rights groups have put the number of Lebanese political prisoners
in Syrian jails at anywhere between several hundred and several thousand20.
August- The arrest of 200 Christian youths following their demands
at a rally for a Syrian withdrawal. The former advisor to Samir Geagea,
Twefic Hindi, was arrested as well as Aoun's representative Nadim Lteif.
They were accused of collaboration with Israel and treason.
Maronite Bishops'Council renewed its call for the withdrawal and asked
Christians not to leave the country.
churches in Sidon and Tripoli were attacked, reinforcing the fact that
Christians are still finding it very hard to be optimistic about their
safety in their homeland.
January-The former commander of the Phalangist army (Lebanese Forces)
and a former minister Elie Hobaiqua was assassinated in Beirut along
with his three bodyguards.
of the Christian's decline in Lebanon
lessons of war had taught Christians that the Muslim power brokers in
the area.e.g Syria would not accept an establishment of a small Christian
country. Christians now hope that the Muslims will not take the opportunity
and attack them in a final assault to take total control of Lebanon.
of the Christians will depend on their internal unity and on the will
of Muslims to allow the existence of a Christian minority in Lebanon.
As Christian numbers are falling in Lebanon, Muslims will always control
the destiny of Lebanon and its inhabitants, especially the Christians.
One option left for the Christians is to resist giving their remaining
power to Muslims and to increase the birth rate and remain in Lebanon.
Marguerite Johnson was optimistic of Christian survival:
Christians may lose their predominant position, but whether in Beirut
or among the cedars of Mount Lebanon, they will undoubtedly retain the
stubborn will to survive that has made them both an asset and a menace
to their Muslim neighbours for twelve centuries1.
is evidence that Christians, still have the resolve to remain influential
in Lebanon. Charles Sennott said that the Maronite Patriarchate filed
a suit against the Hariri government's 1995 program that naturalized some
300,000 Muslims from Syria, Iraq and other countries2. The
Patriarchate thought that the move would further marginalise Christians
Sennott considered that the death of George Saade, leader of Lebanon's
Phalanges party, the largest Maronite political entity, symbolised the
end of the dominant role Christians have played in government4.
This is an accurate description of the current Christian status in Lebanon.
A majority of Christians are not optimistic of their survival in Lebanon-they
simply wonder about what sort of future they will have in Lebanon.
are anxious days for Lebanon's Christian community, now less powerful
and privileged than at any time since the country was created. The Christian's
privileged status in Lebanon was challenged due to the demographic shift
that increasingly favoured the Muslims over them. Moreover, their status
was challenged by the rise of a radicalised Muslim intellectual class
who were supportive of a socio-political change and pan-Arabism1.
Paul Naaman said that the Maronites today must follow in the footsteps
of all those who came before and worked for centuries to accomplish this
mission2. The remaining Christians in Lebanon ought to remember
that they must preserve Lebanon for their children. They just ought not
to give more concessions to Muslims without written guarantees. Christians
need to be represented by powerful Christian leaders.
are now worried that Muslims, with their numerical advantage, will persist
in demanding more power. However, Antoine Najm noted that a Christian
scholar Reverend Jean Ducruet offers a solution for Christian problems3.
Ducruet said that a new political system ought to be established in which
all confessions share in the making of national decisions and in which
not one confession can impose on the nation what is not acceptable to
the tradition of the other confession4. He added that a numerical
majority is not compatible with consensual democracy, which necessitates
a coalition government and a mutual veto on decisions that are seen as
contrary to the vital interests of any community5. It is a
sensible proposal, which will protect Christians in Lebanon. However,
it is not expected that the Muslim majority will agree. They hope for
the abolishment of the sectarian system, so they can run the country completely.
the cause of Christians is all but defunct, where their survival is uncertain.
Fouad Abi-Esber BA MA