Monday, January 25, 2016

What Jeb Bush doesn't know about Lebanon

The cross of Beirut's Lazarite Church is flanked by the minarets of the Mohammed al-Amin Mosque on Oct. 9, 2014 in the Lebanese capital's downtown.
AFP/Getty Images

Richard Hall
Nov 11, 2015

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon’s Christian community woke up Wednesday to the concerning news that they were going to be beheaded.

The warning came from an unlikely source: Jeb Bush, a Republican candidate for the President of the United States.

During the fourth Republican debate, in a call for greater US leadership in the Middle East, Bush declared: “If you’re a Christian, increasingly in Lebanon or Iraq or Syria, you’re gonna be beheaded.”

Though there have been well-known instances of beheadings in the latter two countries, the statement might come as a surprise for Lebanon’s 1.7 million Christians (this is a rough estimate — no census has been conducted since 1932).

In short, Lebanese Christians are far from oppressed. They practice their faith in thousands of churches across the country, free from interference, and are prominent in Lebanon’s culture and business communities.

A power-sharing agreement reached at the end of the country’s civil war ensures that Christians take up half the seats in the country’s parliament — a percentage that outweighs their actual population.

That is not to say Christians here have no worries at all. Their numbers as a percentage have been in decline for many years, and some in the community are concerned about the effect this is having on Lebanon’s multi-sectarian make-up.

The vast majority of Lebanon's problems — corruption, poverty, government gridlock and a garbage crisis, to name a few — impact Christians and Muslims alike. As for security, the last significant bomb attacks in Lebanon, claimed by the Islamic State more than a year ago, targeted civilians living in a largely Shia neighborhood of Beirut.

So Lebanon's Christians have concerns, like everyone else. But beheadings? Not here.


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