- Jul 9, 2020
A bomb fell in the bedroom of the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus last week. He was spared death, he says, only because of a providential trip to the lavatory.
Church and political leaders in the Middle East are intensifying efforts to combat U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans to move the U.S. embassy there.
Lebanon’s proximity to conflict zones and its hospitality have made it a haven for those fleeing violence. Southern Lebanon shares a border with Israel. Eastern and northern Lebanon borders Syria; from Damascus, Syria to the border with Lebanon is only 15 miles. Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, said throughout history, “many of our challenges came from outside Lebanon.”
Faced with a stunning influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees in a country whose population was only a little over four million to begin with, Lebanon is struggling to avoid fracturing along native/refugee lines. In the campaign to promote integration between the two groups, few social forces are as active as the Catholic Church, as both a school and a free meal service in the city of Zahle illustrate.
Many Westerners express sympathy for Christian victims of the genocide conducted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but might find actually listening to them a surprise. They’ll challenge Western stereotypes on at least three fronts: Syria’s Assad is a bad actor and must go; Hezbollah is part of Jihadism Inc. and a threat to Christians; and today’s most profound refugee crisis is in Europe.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church, based in Syria and Lebanon and consisting of some 1.5 million members, elected its new patriarch Archbishop Youssef Absi. In a letter sent the day after his election, Pope Francis congratulated the new patriarch, noting the “delicate situation” for Christians in the Middle East.