Arab uprisings: Lebanon,meeting to revive role of Christians
20 October , 18:00
(ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, OCTOBER 20 - The Christians of the East "are an integral part of the Arab world and must be political players in the ongoing Arab Spring". This is the hope underpinning a large conference opening beginning next Sunday near Beirut, where more than 700 Lebanese and Arab intellectuals and politicians will discuss the role of Arab Christians in the popular uprisings that continue in North Africa and the Middle East.
"We Christians of the East are the best-placed interlocutors to help Europe, and the West in general, understand the importance of dialogue between Muslims and Christians," says Fares Suaid, a former deputy in Lebanon's parliament and the co-founder of the group of Lebanese Christian intellectuals, "Sayyidet al Jabal" (Woman of the Mountain), which is named after a convent north-east of Beirut where their first meeting was held eleven years ago.
"Our role is like that of Sant'Egidio in Italy," Suaid told ANSAmed, ahead of the conference beginning on October 23. For over ten years, Sayyidet al Jabal has regularly brought together intellectuals and opinion leaders, and not only Christians and Lebanese, "in order to come up with reflections on what is happening in the region, to supply the political and cultural interpretations necessary to face the challenges being laid down in front of us".
After the attacks of September 11 2001 and the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005, Suaid believes that the uprisings that have shaken the region in the last ten months are the crucial challenge of the first decade of the new millennium. "It is an event comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989," says the former deputy, who is from the Byblos region north of Beirut. "The Arab Spring will begin a period of uncertainty all over the Mediterranean with inevitable destabilisation in Europe".
"And while in 1989 it was Europe's eastern borders that were hit by destabilisation," he continues in perfect Italian, the result of six years of studying medicine in the country before specialising in cardiology in France, "it will now affect the southern shores. Europe will therefore be the absorber of these uprisings, not only as a result of the potential increase in immigration, but also amid the possible political repercussions within Arab and Muslim communities in European cities".
"Italy, more than anyone, with its history and its position, must understand the magnitude of these events," Suaid explains, adding that "Arab Christians are best-placed to explain what is happening".
"We Christians of the East are not Martians, aliens landed from space. We are part of these societies and we must defend today the principles of citizenship, of respect for human rights and of democracy. We have a role to play in the Arab Spring".
Suaid strongly condemns the leaders of Christian Churches in the East, which for months have taken the side of Arab dictatorships, the neighbouring Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad in particular, which has been hit by seven months of protests in spite of a bloody crackdown in which more than 3,000 people are so far known to have died.
"The Church uses the argument of fear of Islamic fundamentalism to defend dictatorships, but in so doing we they risk remaining on the outside of the history and the geography of the region," Suaid says.
"The Arab Spring is a process that can no longer be stopped by anyone," he continues. "Lining up against it means lining up against the majority of protesters, who are Muslim. We are siding against Islam. We are dividing instead of uniting. The foundations are being laid for a future of marginalisation and not of cohabitation. If Christians oppose the revolution, against the principles that they should instead defend, they are lining up against themselves".