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ICC Note: With the friction between Christians and Muslims the idea that Muslims are coming to a mainly Christian town in Lebanon could cause some trouble among the two people groups.

The Divided Loyalties Of Lebanon

By Martin Patience

7/20/2006 Lebanon (BBC News) Lebanon is a country of many faces. In a society of large Muslim (both Shia and Sunni), Christian and Druze minorities, it does not speak with one voice.

Beirut ‘s southern suburbs are home to about 500,000 Shia Muslims. The streets lie empty. Israeli bombing has killed or chased the life out of the area.

Bikfaya is a different story. The town is home to about 20,000 Christians and it is untouched by Israeli bombing. Residents can be seen out on the streets.

Beirut ‘s southern suburbs are a stronghold for the militant Islamic organization and many of the residents – even those who have been forced to leave their homes – support the group’s actions.

But many of Bifkaya’s residents are horrified by what has happened.

While criticism of Hezbollah does not exclusively break along religious lines – many Muslims both Shia and Sunni have been critical of the group – it is felt keenly in Bikfaya.

Religious divisions

Talking about politics – particularly along religious lines – is a delicate subject in this country. Memories of the civil war that engulfed Lebanon for 15 years are still fresh. But Samuel Kharrat, a church minister in Bikfaya, said that most of the residents would agree that the future looked bleaker.

This is a Christian town and many of the residents aren’t happy about the Muslims coming here.” Two weeks everything seemed okay, but now many people feel the opposite as if they are starting from the beginning again,” he said. “People are losing faith here. They are physically affected and worried about the future.”

Following the bombing, hundreds of Lebanese citizens, some of them from the southern suburbs, are seeking refuge in the town. “This is a Christian town and many of the residents aren’t happy about the Muslims coming here. If a big group of Christians went to a Muslim town they probably wouldn’t be welcome either.”

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