Patriarch Sfeir has fulfilled this challenge with a powerful
eloquence and personal courage. He has become the conscience
of the nation. At great personal risk, he has questioned the
presence of foreign occupiers in the country and challenged
the world community to guarantee Lebanon's independence and
sovereignty. He has been the spokesman for the thousands who
have been displaced because of the war, and for economic justice
for the hundreds of thousands who have become impoverished.
While especially concerned with the welfare of his people, the
Patriarch has sought to solidify the bonds with all the religious
communities in Lebanon.
Lebanon's Sovereignty. Only in a nation free to make
its own political choices can the economy flourish and its citizens
attempt to reach their social and economic aspirations. The
international community must ensure the restoration of Lebanon's
sovereignty and full membership at the peace table and all other
negotiations affecting its future. While Lebanon fully acknowledges
the special relationship with Syria, this relationship has not
been allowed to naturally develop because of continued occupation
by Syrian troops in violation of the Taif Accords, which was
supported by the United States.
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The Marginalization of Christians in an Evolving Lebanon.
Perhaps the single greatest danger facing Lebanon's Christians
in the coming years is depletion through emigration and declining
birth rates. Behind these two seemingly simple reasons are complex
principles that affect the very essence of the Christian population.
These revolve around the economic and political circumstances
enveloping the nation. The inability of young graduates to find
employment in a stagnating economy, the influx of Syrian workers
in the economy, and the potential naturalization of up to 400,000
Palestinians, combine to promotes emigration to find jobs, particularly
to the welcome arms of such nations as Australia, Brazil and
Mexico and a low birth rate die to low-expectations concerning
the economy and am ability to support larger families.
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Demography and Emigration: It is estimated that throughout
the recent war, close to 900,000, the vast majority of them
Christians, left Lebanon. Only a fraction has since returned.
If naturalization of the remaining Palestinians in the country,
who are overwhelmingly Muslim, goes through as part of an overall
peace settlement, then the Christians will be in even more dire
Syrian Occupation: The longer this lasts the more permanent
and deeper the damage sustained by all Lebanese and Christians
in particular. With freedoms already in eclipse, Syrian-sponsored
legislation in such sensitive areas as education, demography,
and politics will have a negative effect on the Christian community.
Because of the occupation, distrust and discord has been planted
among the Lebanese themselves. Repressive measures and agreements,
which do not have popular political support, are causing significant
violations of human rights. There are still prisoners in Syria
for which there has been no accounting. In Lebanon itself, out
of favor political dissidents remain in jails and legitimate
political leaders remain in exile afraid to return.
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Islamization: In its present stagnant state, Lebanon
is being steadily and irreversibly Islamized, whether through
policies of Saudi-backed politicians who purchase vast real-estate
properties from needy Christians and staffs government and civil-service
appointments exclusively with Muslims, or whether through the
growing power of the militant Iran-inspired fundamentalists,
whose leaders state openly that they are working for the eventual
creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.
Conclusions and Desired Outcomes: The United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, co-authored by Eleanor
Roosevelt and Dr. Charles Malik, Lebanon's representative to
the UN, set forth the guidelines for resolving problems in the
world. Lebanon, a charter member of the United Nations, does
not now enjoy the "inherent dignity" of the human
family of which the document spoke so eloquently. On the contrary,
the events of recent years and months have shown that, in addition
to being the battleground for the conflict of its neighbors,
Lebanon now faces the prospect of serving as the sacrificial
lamb in the "peace process." In this critical time,
Lebanon, whose history of tolerance and democracy was unique
in the region, may fall as the price of peace.
The Patriarch's call for open dialogue should be considered
as an opportunity to develop a consensus among the Lebanese
body politic to develop a working relationship centered on the
concept of a "strategic alliance" between Lebanon
and Syria that would preserve their individual sovereignty.
The only beneficiaries of this definition can only be a strengthening
of the social and economic ties between the two nations, and
the development of a security alliance. Finally, at long last,
there can be an appropriate exchange of ambassadors between
the two countries.
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Desired Outcomes: Lebanon's history offers a unique
example of peaceful and creative coexistence between Muslims
and Christians. At a time when tensions between Islam and Christianity
are increasing at many points around the world, it is imperative
that Lebanon's legacy not be squandered.
The United States should, as a matter of policy,