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Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13,21-33.36-38. When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus' side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He leaned back against Jesus' chest and said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and (took it and) handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." (Now) none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, "Buy what we need for the feast," or to give something to the poor. So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. When he had left, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, 'Where I go you cannot come,' so now I say it to you. Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered (him), "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." Peter said to him, "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."
Islam's War in Lebanon Against Christians-FrontPage magazine.com. March 04/07
No Victory for Any Party in Lebanon-Al-Jazeerah.info. March 04/07
Iraq's Christians Flock to Lebanon-TIME.March 04/07
Latest News Reports From
Miscellaneous sources April 04/07
Jumblat: International Tribunal under Chapter 7 is 'Available Option'-Naharnet
Legislators Avoid Showdown in Parliament-Naharnet
Lebanon house speaker again refuses to open session, deepening crisis-International Herald Tribune
House Speaker Pelosi Arrives in Syria-Washington Post
Pelosi's Syria Trip Undermines US Policy, Says Expert
Syrian Court to Sentence Bunni for Beirut-Damascus Offence-Naharnet
Israel Says Iran, Syria and Hezbollah Are Preparing For War With US-All Headline News
Combat against Religionist Terrorism in Turkey: Al Qaeda and ...Journal of Turkish Weekly
General Assembly approves financing for United Nations missions in ...ReliefWeb (press release)
Merkel urges Syria to prevent arms smuggling into Lebanon-People's Daily Online
Pelosi Shrugs Off White House Criticism-WTOP
Korean Troops Heading for Lebanon in June-Chosun Ilbo
US House of Representatives Leader Visits Lebanon, Defends Trip to ...Voice of America
ROUNDUP: Merkel Concludes Visit To Lebanon-Playfuls.com
Howells: Political Impasse in Beirut, re-growth in South Lebanon-Ya Libnan
Olmert speaks out-Ynetnews
Merkel to Syria: stop arms flow to Lebanon-Gulf Times
Latest News Reports From
The Daily Star for April 03/07
MP refuses to turn blind eye on corruption
Pelosi stresses dialogue with Syria as medicine for what ails Lebanon
March 14 Forces expand talk of Chapter 7 option
Merkel throws German weight behind creation of Hariri tribunal
UN sources say Ban preparing special report on Lebanon
Gemayel says tribunal will 'likely' be under Chapter 7
Adwan says court, unity government must progress along separate tracks
Siniora sets schedule for Latin Easter holidays
Political dispute leads to gunplay in Chouf
Iranian envoy says solution must be 'made in Lebanon'
Qabbani calls for politics to be kept in its place
Court orders Israeli panel on conduct of war to explain partial publication
Women plan ride for peace and solidarity
Martyrs Fund beneficiaries protest stoppage of money
LU announces indefinite suspension of elections
Initial work on Sidon dump gets under way
Environmentalists say ministry failed to prepare for spill
Legislators Avoid Showdown in Parliament
Pro-government legislators and opposition lawmakers rallied in parliament on Tuesday, avoiding a feared showdown over an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri. Deputy House Speaker Farid Makari, reading a written statement, pleaded with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to convene the house to ratify the U.N.-backed court. Makari said the presence of more than two-thirds of the parliament's members on Tuesday "remains amputated and hindered" because of Berri's alleged determination not to convene the legislature. "The reason for the closure of parliament has become clear in the eyes of the Lebanese, the Arabs and the world," Makari said. "There is an ethical and national issue put forward in Parliament, it is the international tribunal issue."Makari's lenient move, which avoided any criticism of Berri, a ranking figure in the Hizbullah-led opposition, defused tension in the house between anti and pro-government MPs. The opposition hit back at pro-government legislators, saying only a national unity cabinet was the solution to Lebanon's political crisis.
A statement read by MP Nabil Nicola, member of Gen. Michel Aoun's parliamentary bloc which is part of the opposition, accused the majority of plotting a "coup" against the constitution and "aborting chances" of a settlement. The daily An Nahar on Tuesday said majority MPs were to step up pressure on Berri, urging him to convene a parliament session. The paper said that opposition legislators, on the other hand, were to mobilize a counter-demonstration under the emblem: to "protect the house speaker." An Nahar said the majority deputies were also expected to sign a petition to be referred to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and the Arab League secretariat general as well as to Saudi Arabia.
The daily said the petition will put in plain words the "obstacles and barriers" that are halting approval of an international tribunal bill in Parliament. However, such a move did not take place. Opposition lawmakers, according to An Nahar, were apparently determined to mobilize MPs in an effort to thwart the majority from "occupying (television) screens and deluding the public into believing that they are doing something rightful." The daily said Hizbullah MP Mohammed Raad has summoned members of his parliamentary bloc for a meeting in parliament on Tuesday. Gen. Michel Aoun's Reform and Change bloc was also there.
Berri has declined to convene a parliamentary session and has refused to receive any documents referred to Parliament by Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government which he terms "illegitimate" following the resignation of six opposition ministers in November. The ministers quit after the cabinet approved the tribunal bill. Saniora on Monday again referred a bill creating the international court to Berri's office, only to be turned back to the premiership just like the first time.
On his refusal to receive the tribunal bill, An Nahar quoted Berri as telling visitors late Monday that he will only take delivery of the draft law "when the government becomes legitimate." Saniora's office had published the international tribunal bill in the official gazette on Dec. 12. Beirut, 03 Apr 07, 07:21
Syrian Court to Sentence Bunni for Beirut-Damascus Offence
A Syrian court is to spell out its verdict on April 24 in the trial of human rights activist Anwar Bunni who risks more than three years in jail for signing a petition demanding the normalizing of Damascus-Beirut ties, a rights group said Tuesday. "The criminal court has scheduled a verdict for April 24," Ammar al-Qorabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, told Agence France Presse after Bunni's lawyers presented their closing arguments.
Bunni, himself a lawyer, was arrested in the Syrian capital in May 2006 after signing an appeal for radical reform in relations between Syria and neighboring Lebanon. Syria's state prosecutor said in February that Bunni would be prosecuted for spreading false information. On Tuesday, Bunni's lawyers argued that "the prosecution failed to provide proof concerning the charges" and demanded his acquittal, Qorabi said.
European, U.S. and Canadian diplomats based in Damascus attended the session, along with Bunni family members and friends, he said.
Bunni was the director of a legal rights centre in Syria financed partly by the European Union and established by a Belgian non-governmental organization. The centre was closed down after his arrest. In a statement to the court in January, Bunni said he was being judged for his opinions and had in no way violated the constitution or the law. The "Beirut-Damascus Declaration" published in the Lebanese capital in May 2006 was signed by nearly 300 Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals. In the crackdown that followed Bunni was arrested along with nine others, including journalist and writer Michel Kilo and communist activist Mahmoud Issa. On March 27, Kilo and Issa were charged in court with spreading false information and sowing discord, and they also face possible jail terms of at least three years.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 03 Apr 07, 17:17
Jumblat: International Tribunal under Chapter 7 is 'Available Option'
Druze leader and MP Walid Jumblat said creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter was an available option. "Setting up the tribunal under Chapter 7 remains an available option and a possibility to block attempts by some local powers allied with regional regimes to abort the court," Jumblat said in comments published Tuesday by Al-Anbaa weekly, mouthpiece of his Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). The international tribunal will "certainly" be achieved, he said, stressing that "the countdown has started." "We were and still are eager to establish the international tribunal by means of constitutional channels, starting by the cabinet then parliament which has been locked in the face of the parliamentary majority in a rare, unprecedented situation in democratic regimes," said Jumblat. Beirut, 03 Apr 07, 12:56
Islam's War in Lebanon Against Christians
By Michael Hirst
Sunday Telegraph | April 3, 2007
Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape political and economic crises and signs that radical Islam is on the rise in the country.
In a poll to be published next month which was exclusively leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating. Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies. Their exodus could have a devastating effect on the country, robbing it of an influential minority which has acted as an important counter-balance to the forces of Islamic extremism.
About 60,000 Christians have already left since last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shia factions is looming.
"If we love our children we have to tell them to get out," said Maria, a Christian mother of one from the northern city of Tripoli, who refused to give her surname for fear of reprisal. "When my daughter finished her high school I sent her to Europe, and I will follow her if I can."
Christine, another Christian woman, said that all of her family’s younger generation had left the country, adding that Tripoli had become increasingly Islamised in recent years. There is a rising number of veiled women and religiously bearded men on the streets - although she blamed economic and political instability for much of the emigration. Christians, who make up 22 per cent of the population, have historically played a major role in the development of Lebanon’s political, social and cultural institutions. Currently the president, the army commander and the head of the central bank are all Maronites, and under the agreement which ended the civil war in 1989, half the 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament are reserved for Christians.
"Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving towards the model of Islamisation seen in Iraq and Egypt," said Fr Samir Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut’s Université Saint-Joseph.
Lebanon’s Christian community is concerned that its influence is waning as a result of a continuing internal power struggle, which for the past five months has pitted a Sunni-led government against a predominantly Shia opposition, spearheaded by the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The collapse in influence has been exacerbated by a roughly equal spilt in support among Christians for rival Shia and Sunni leaders. The battle between Muslim factions has paralysed the Lebanese administration and crippled the economy. The exodus of young workers crosses the religious spectrum. Some 22 per cent of Shias and 26 per cent of Sunnis say they are considering going abroad, according to the study by Information International, an independent Beirut-based research body.
No Victory for Any Party in Lebanon
By Ed Hollants
Al-Jazeerah, April 3, 2007
From 8 to 22 February this year we made a second visit with D4net from the Netherlands to Lebanon. We wanted to speak to our contacts from our first visit in September 2006, and meet new people too. Our main questions were: how do the people on the ground see a way out of the political stalemate between government and opposition? What are the effects of the June war and the internal political struggle? Is a third way possible? What effect does the sectarian system have at present, and what are people’s thoughts on Lebanon in the light of international developments? In part 1 of this article we try to give an idea of the current situation in Lebanon on the basis of all the discussions we had and our own impressions. In part 2 we attempt to sketch out the conditions that could lead to more positive developments. We want to emphasise that we do not think that we know better than the Lebanese people themselves. Our idea is more that it can be helpful to read how a relative outsider, who plays no part in Lebanese society and its conflicts, sees the situation.
Part 1: the current situation
It strikes one straight away that Lebanese society is currently strongly polarised along government camp/opposition camp lines. As a result of the opposition’s attempts to gain more influence in the current political balance of power, and the inflexible reaction of the government to this, a stalemate has arisen that is partly paralysing the country. In itself, what the opposition claims – that the division of power in Lebanon is shared unequally, to the advantage of the Sunnis and Druzes in particular, while in numeric terms the Shias form a much larger section of the population – is correct. However, what makes the problem seemingly insoluble is mainly outside interference. The opposition, especially Hezbollah, is probably heavily influenced by Syria and Iran, in order to expand their political power and to frustrate the investigations into the assassination of Hariri. On the other hand, strong pressure is definitely being exerted by the US on the government to make a firm stand. Hezbollah is seen by the US as the greatest threat after Al Qaeda, even though these movements have nothing to do with one another and are also totally different in their aims and organisation. The rising tensions are intensified still further by mysterious attacks and finds of explosives. In reality the situation differs little from the policy of the Bush administration and its slogan ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us’. It leaves no room whatsoever for other voices to be heard. You are either for the government or for the opposition.
In addition, sectarianism causes extra problems because economic, administrative and military power are not equally divided among the sects. Positions of power are mainly concentrated among particular sects. So, for instance, so Sunnis have most of the economic power, and military might is mainly in the hands of Hezbollah. The damage to the economic life of Beirut thus mainly affects the power of the Sunnis, and the pressure on Hezbollah to disarm represents a direct erosion of their power. With the effective absence of a democratic state, you could say that economic power is unbridled, and also does not need any more control. It is the free market and globalisation in its most extreme form.
Because it only possesses military power, and has no clear socio-economic plan for Lebanon, Hezbollah has the problem that it needs the threat from Israel. If Israel were to accede to Hezbollah’s demands and a definitive peace were to be achieved, then Hezbollah’s power would largely disappear. The sectarianism is a many-headed monster. It is not only religious, but is also culturally, socially, economically politically and militarily determined. Political reform alone will not remove it. The question arises of whether this really is such a great problem. The most important problem is the division of economic and political power. It is necessary for a peaceful Lebanon to remove these two areas of division, and to approach the sects from now on from the basis of a national vision founded on equality. None of the sects or their associated political parties have a clear political-economic or social vision for the country. The only one which does have such a vision is the Communist Party of Lebanon, which has virtually no power. In addition, the party of Aoun, the FPM, had made some steps on the way towards a plan. The sectarian parties are also often led by family clan, with leadership passing from father to son.
What seems most necessary is a change in the electoral system: a reform of political power on the basis of voting that is separate from the sectarian division of power. In particular, space must be created to give opportunities to independent candidates. A mechanism must also be created that obliges parties to have a general political and economic programme. There must be checks on economic power, so that income can be generated for the development of impoverished areas. The development of a number of basic amenities and a genuine campaign against corruption are also necessary. All these issues require a lot of time. They need a change of mentality, and the Lebanese must be given the time for this. It is often forgotten for the sake of convenience that Lebanon has only been independent for a short time since the Middle East was divided up by the western colonial powers, and experienced a lengthy civil war.
There is no civil structure present in Lebanon, for example of citizen’s groups and NGOs that have a clear plan or political stance aimed at social change. There is also hardly any personal space. Many NGOs are dependent on foreign donors who place conditions on grants, such as a prohibition on presenting a political profile. New groups are arising, but these mainly promote a moral message, for example: no violence, no civil war.
Furthermore, there is currently a great deal of division that makes a third way impossible. There is no organisational or conceptual framework that can bring the civil groups together.
The divisions include those between those fiercely anti-Hezbollah, or extremely sympathetic and/understanding of Hezbollah, between groups working towards a socialist society and, especially, among citizens who fear the threat of a new civil war. There are even more negative developments. Migration has risen. One the one hand, people who were planning to return to Lebanon are postponing this and, on the other, highly educated young people in particular are leaving the country. Various Gulf states have raised their quotas for Lebanese workers, creating an added lure to leave the country. Unemployment is rising, and so are prices. Everyone is primarily concerned with survival, so that other activities, such as voluntary work for NGOs or civilian organisations, are secondary or in decline. Of course the blows fall the hardest in the poorer areas of Lebanon. The totally destroyed South plays no further role in national discussions, let alone that any policy is being made for it. The people in these types of areas of Lebanon are completely left to their fate.
An important condition for a solution to the problems is that there is no more outside interference, but this interference is actually increasing. It seems as if, after the Gaza strip and Iraq, a third chaotic state or region is in preparation. Beyond the internal situation, internationally tensions have risen dramatically, and this has a direct effect on Lebanon. The existence of the various sects is abused by foreign powers to further their interests in the region. The influence of Syria and Iraq on Hezbollah is well known, but the Sunnis are used by the US and the Gulf states in the same way. Christian groups in their turn are used by the US and European countries. Hezbollah is the movement in Lebanon that emancipated, organised and thereby gave power to the disadvantaged Shia population. The rise of movements such as Hezbollah is seen as a threat, especially now that these movements have an ideological affinity with Iran. In this way, Lebanon is becoming a reflection of the entire strategic power struggle in the Middle East arena between a superpower, the US, and a regional superpower, Iran. Israel would like nothing better than to strike the next blow against Hezbollah, and will certainly do so as soon as it can see a reason to attack. Because of its character as a Zionist state, Israel is dependent for its existence on the position of hegemony that it occupies in the Middle East. Every force that impinges on that must be fought against in order to survive. In addition, Israel has always been the most important ally of the US in the Middle East. So things are looking grim for Lebanon, yet still there are some points of light. It is still possible that, under internal and external pressure, the US will abandon an attack on Iran, and will be forced to pursue a less military and confrontational course. This can also create more space in Lebanon, and less polarisation.
A great deal of money has been invested in Lebanon by the Sunni camp and the Gulf states in recent years. A civil war is not in their interests. Hezbollah too has nothing to gain from rising internal violence, and has stated time and time again that it will do all in its power to prevent this. It seems that there are many people within Lebanon who absolutely want to prevent a civil war, and are increasingly vocal in expressing this. There is a strong aversion to a war within the Christian community, and in this way indirect criticism is made of the inflammatory statements of GeaGea, the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces of the government camp. The problem lies more with smaller parties and organisations that are often controlled from outside.
From an international perspective, Lebanon has little or no influence on developments. Nationally, however, initiatives for change have some chance of success. The pressure for this will have to come from civil society and from the diaspora. None of the parties in either the government or the opposition want to initiate a genuine transformation of society: it would mean a loss of power both for the sects and for the families within the sects.
Part II: A civil network for change
To achieve a genuine change in Lebanon requires a union of forces from civil society, a union in the form of a network. The network must be broad and challenging, and express the hope for all Lebanese that ‘society will be changed by us in the time to come’. It must also articulate a vision of how much is possible if Lebanon changes: how everyone will benefit. Even if it seems no more than a drop in the ocean now, a start has to be made somewhere: not immediately looking at the achievability of the ultimate goal, but getting involved in how you want to live, instead of how you are forced to live.
A condition for all this is that there must be a recognition that there is a communal problem that can only be solved communally. A broad group of people from various backgrounds and social positions must acknowledge this, and express their will as citizens to take a communal initiative. Starting from the situation as it is now, a number of aims can be formulated that everyone can relate to despite their great differences, aims where everyone can see that they are conditions for a real change. The means may be very diverse, as long as they are recognisable as a part of the general aim. The network must also map out a recognisable strategy, or multiple strategies, for achieving this aim. Ultimately the network can, through the activities that take place within it, form a political force to change society.
Through its very existence the network will support and stimulate social initiatives that make change a reality. A discussion on the politics of the network that is mainly focussed on what is the ideologically correct course should be guarded against. Whatever ideology you follow on a national level, nothing is possible as long the present system continues to exist. No single ideology, whether it is socialism, liberalism or an ideology based on religion, will lead to change at the national level or a revolution that replaces the system. What is needed right now is the creation of conditions in which an authentic political discussion and struggle can take place. A movement must arise with pragmatic goals that make this possible. The creation of public forums is of great importance in this. Political parties and organisations can better be excluded, or only assigned a limited role in the network. They should however be allowed to express their sympathies and support. The acceptance of great diversity is an essential condition for an effective network that can change society. Whatever the ultimate solution or form of society for Lebanon as a whole may be: at the moment, every attempt at development is blocked. The power that breaks through the blockages must come from civil society, so that the foundations can be laid for a new Lebanon.
Security could be a central theme within the network: security and protection against internal military violence as well as external threats, with a firm condemnation of all political violence by anyone. In addition, security in terms of social exclusion, cultural exclusion, income, housing etc. is equally important. People will always choose for something on the basis of their own interests, and their foremost interest is in security for themselves and their immediate family and friends. It must be clear that the only guarantee of this for all Lebanese people is a non-sectarian society. Having various loyalties, religions or cultures does not need to be a barrier to practical agreements on a non-sectarian basis on the leadership of the country, its division of income, cultural exchange, legal power and security.
A basic principle for the creation of security is that people within the borders of Lebanon form an organisational union. Countries and their borders are a fact. They offer people within those borders the possibility to organise how they relate to one another. A national form of government and administrative apparatus should choose for the relief of emergency situations and for the protection for all those within Lebanon. This applies to legal, military, political and economic issues. The interests of Lebanese society as a whole are chiefly a stake in, and a loyalty to, a society that refrains from nationalism. Nationalism is in fact a sectarian phenomenon on a national level. Lebanon in particular is a country that has great a interest in open borders, both internally and towards the outside world. It is vitally important to develop activities on the division lines and borders that exist within Lebanon itself. An armed party such as Hezbollah is undesirable but, at the same time, Lebanon as a whole must be able to give guarantees for the protection of Lebanon, whether that is against Israel or against Syria.
An unrestrained concentration of economic power among the Sunni elite would be disastrous for the economic development of Lebanon as a whole. Development and security for all is only possible, then, if everyone takes on the responsibility for guaranteeing security for all. The current system in Lebanon is outdated. It is anachronistic, and developments in many areas are being held back. The old politic elite – based on sects and family structures – must fade away. A young generation must then take over on the basis of a self-determined course that looks to the future and is appropriate in an open world.
It is all about bringing about a change of consciousness. This also means initiating a national debate about the Lebanese civil war. Coming to terms with this part of Lebanon’s history is essential, because the sectarian power of today has also partly grown out of it. The Taif agreements at the end of the civil war did stop the fighting, but they allowed the sectarianism to continue, and even reinforced it. The network has to stimulate people to enter into discussions with their families and work colleagues when they hear prejudiced remarks between sects: discussions about the history of Lebanon. Change in Lebanon is only possible if something changes in the mentality of the people themselves.
A separate point for attention is the diaspora. More Lebanese people live and work outside of Lebanon than inside it, some for 150 years or more already, but there are also many who have left or fled in the last 30 years. These Lebanese in the diaspora often still have links with Lebanon. Departures are sometimes seen as only temporary. By staying in other countries, mainly with democratic governments, it can be seen that these systems are preferable to sectarianism. Contact with civil marriage, rights for women and gay people etc. can also bring about a change in mentality. This can be of great influence on the situation in Lebanon, even if this only means a flow of funds in the direction of initiatives like the ones we have described in this article. It can be expected that the number of (young) Lebanese who want to see a different political future will rise. Alongside financial contributions, the diaspora, united in Lebanese associations for example, can also make its voice heard other ways, and try to exercise influence (for example on family members remaining in Lebanon).
Contacts outside of Lebanon can also be intensified: contacts for reflection, knowledge exchange, support and advice. These may be contacts with people with experience in broad civil movements, such as the ones in Eastern Europe that gave an impetus for political change there, but contacts with smaller and larger organisations in the fields of human rights, culture and art can also make an important contribution. Activities therefore definitely do not have to be only political. They can just as well take place in cultural and social fields.
Some activities around which a network can form itself are:
- Using creativity, diversity, humour, art and culture – which the Lebanese are strong in – instead of (often imported) weighty ideologies - Developing as far as possible public forums where thoughts and cultural expressions can be exchanged. These can be debating centres, radio, wall newspapers, magazines, websites, and so on. - A national information/archive centre for research into Lebanese history, especially the civil war, and into current events, as a means of opening up a national discussion - Making referendums or other forms of consultation available to the people, so that the knowledge and experience of the people as a whole can be utilised - Making use of ‘the great outdoors’ for exchanges and image enhancement - Organising ‘border camps’ on the borders within Lebanese society - A set logo or other form of recognition. With this, an overarching identity can be given to the various initiatives.
There are undoubtedly many other visions of and efforts for change. We hope that this article can contribute to them. We can help to bring different people together to formulate a national initiative. We also want to support existing initiatives. Furthermore, we can attempt to help to organise support from outside of Lebanon.
The delegation from D4net to Lebanon was made up of Henk van der Keur and Ed Hollants.
Ed Hollants is since 1979 active in all kind of polical/social movements in the Netehrlands. In 1990 he started the Autonoom Centrum and in 2005 D4net. Most of the activities are in the Netherlands but he went also five times to East Timor and in 2003 to Palestine.
Iraq's Christians Flock to Lebanon
Monday, Apr. 02, 2007 By ANDREW LEE BUTTERS Enlarge Photo
Lebanese Christian clergymen lead the traditional Palm Sunday procession in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, April 1, 2007.
Wael Hamzeh / EPA
Article ToolsPrintEmailReprints Its procession of frond-waving believers, the singing and chanting, and the proud parents snapping photos of their princess-garbed daughters made the Palm Sunday celebration in the Beirut suburb of al-Fanar look like any of the hundreds occurring all over Lebanon. But after the service, the conversations among parishioners revealed the special nature of this community. Many of them spoke Arabic with heavy Iraqi accents — al-Fanar has become a magnet for Christian refugees from Iraq. For those fleeing the chaos in Iraq, the Middle East's most Christian country looks a safe bet. Tell that to Lebanon's own Christians
"Halal" Music Makes a Comeback
Iran's Islamic Revolution banned musical instruments. These days, the mullahs are allowing a reemergence of Iranian classical music, despite prohibitive restrictions — it turns out some of the clerics actually like music
When the Family Reunion Is Via Remote
Koreans on the divided peninsula get a rare chance to see long-separated relatives, but the waiting list goes on and on
Where Rules Are Still Made to Be Broken
Sure, this port city has serious crime. But the daily infractions — scooter helmet, anyone? — are what make its citizens uniquely Neapolitan
It's hardly surprising that Iraq's Assyrian and Chaldean Christians would seek refuge from the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq in one of the most Christian countries in the Middle East — almost one third of Lebanon's population is Christian, and the country's presidency is reserved for them. "Iraqi Christians feel comfortable in a country where Christians have power," says Mark Samuel, the president of a Lebanese Assyrian political party. At the town's Assyrian Church of St. George, Iraqi refugees now make up almost one-third of the congregation. "It was bad in Iraq under the old regime," says James Isho, whose family fled Baghdad two years ago after the church next door to their house in the Dora district was bombed. "Now it's even worse."
Lebanon has a growing Iraqi refugee population, currently numbering between 20,000 and 40,000 Iraqi, according to the U.N. — a small fraction of the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled the spiraling violence in their country. But what makes Lebanon's Iraqi refugee intake unusual is that about 30% of them are Christian, although Christians comprise just about 3% of Iraq's population.
Many Christian refugees arrive from Syria on mountain paths used by smugglers, bringing with them little more than a suitcase or two and harrowing stories of rape, kidnapping and murder. Upon arriving, the first place many of them go is the Assyrian and Chaldean churches. "Every day five or six more families come here," says Bishop Michael Kisargi from the headquarters of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon. "Everyone can tell me a story about persecution by Muslims." One of the worst, he said, was from a family whose daughter had been raped 15 times by militia members.
As a small minority without a militia of their own, Iraqi Christians have been persecuted by both Shia and Sunni Muslim militias, and also by criminal gangs. "They think because we have liquor stores or live in nice neighborhoods we have more money," says Ghassan Mansou Chamoun, an Iraqi Christian from Mosul who arrived in Lebanon in December. The 36 year-old taxi driver left after receiving death threats from the Muslim family of one his passengers who died in an accident. "They wanted $50,000 or my head," he said.
Despite its own political troubles and last summer's war with Israel, Lebanon is peaceful in comparison to Iraq. But the Lebanese remain wary of accepting refugees, lest they upset the country's ever-fragile sectarian balance. Lebanon already houses 400,000 permanent Palestinian refugees, some of whom have lived here for almost 60 years without gaining citizenship. Tension over their presence helped trigger the civil war that ran from 1975 to 1990. "In general, every time you have new refugees, no matter what the number, it raises the Palestinian question," says Stephane Jaquemet, the UN High Commission for Refugees representative in Lebanon. Still, the U.N. has worked out an agreement with the Lebanese government whereby any Iraqi given official refugee status by the UNHCR can stay in the country for a renewable one-year period. (UNHCR now automatically grants refugee status to anyone from central and southern Iraq.) But most Iraqi refugees aren't legally allowed to work in Lebanon, and those who do usually take menial under-the-table jobs such as washing cars for $14 a day. A number of Iraqi women have ended up working as prostitutes.
The community relies largely on support from NGOs such as the Catholic charity Caritas, that has helped refugees of all religious backgrounds. But the Churches say they are swamped. "I can't go on like this," said Bishop Kisargi, whose congregation has been supplying refugees with food and medicine and help finding homes. "We are a poor church and the situation is getting worse."
Kisargi is dismayed by his failure, during a trip to the U.S. last summer, to win support for Christian refugees from politicians and business leaders. The country he had once thought of as the apex of the civilized world is now ignoring its responsibilities, he said. "If you want to make a war, you have to protect the people."
Ironically, though, while Christians from Iraq are seeking refuge in Lebanon, many native-Lebanese Christians are themselves trying to escape Lebanon's political and economic crisis. A recent poll of Lebanese Maronites, members of the country's largest Christian sect, found that half of them are considering leaving for a better life overseas. For Christians across the Middle East then, the onset of the Jewish Passover season is marked by a new exodus.