Syria’s civil war has ramifications that stretch beyond just its own borders. It has become a battleground for political groups battling for influence in the region. Lebanon to Syria’s south has been increasingly impacted by the shifting demographics of the Syrian conflict. During this conflict the Christian population has been forced out of their homeland due to threats of bombings, shootings, and kidnappings.
By Joseph Puder
7/16/2013 Lebanon (FrontPageMag) – The destinies of Syria and Lebanon have been intertwined since the days of French colonial rule, in between the two world wars. It is for this reason that the ongoing civil war in Syria has had its impact on Lebanon. Lebanon is more divided on the issue of the Syrian uprising than any other country in the region.
The Syrian regime has dominated its smaller Lebanese neighbor since the mid-1970s. It has loyal allies and sworn enemies. The Syrian crisis threatens to escalate tensions between and within Lebanon’s largest religious communities, all of whom have a complex relationship with Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The Shiite-Muslims of Lebanon overwhelmingly support the Syrian government of Bashar Assad. Hezbollah, in particular, has a close alliance with Assad. The vast majority of Sunni-Muslims in Lebanon support the largely Sunni-led uprising in Syria. The Christians are divided between political parties that rely on Assad’s support. Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, is allied with Hezbollah and Assad, while those Christian parties who are part of the March 14 Movement (allied with the Saudis and the U.S.) strongly oppose Syria and the Assad regime’s influence in Lebanon.
Joseph Hakim is a Lebanese native and President of the International Christian Union (ICU). In Hakim’s view, the jihadi forces within the Syrian opposition and Hezbollah on the other side, have used the conflict in Syria to ethnically cleanse the Christians. According to Hakim, the indigenous Christian minority in Syria is being “forced out of their native cities, towns, and villages.” Hakim bemoaned the passivity of the free world as it witnessed Christians being slaughtered, churches firebombed, priests being beheaded, and bishops kidnapped. “I feel that I am being accurate in calling what is happening genocide.”