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A Maronite Catholic priest from Lebanon warns that Islamic extremists groups and mismanagement in Syria post-civil war would have long lasting implications on Lebanon’s Christian population. Christians paid the highest price in the Syrian War, he explains. The war in Syria has greatly stressed Lebanon’s economic, political, and social environment due to the mass influx of refugees who flooded the country. Many Lebanese Christians view this situation as a potential stress point for any future conflict.  

 

12/08/2017 Lebanon (AINA) –   Left unchecked, Christian populations could be erased from the Holy Land, according to a Maronite Catholic priest from the region.

The Rev. Emanuel Nakhle spoke recently at the Waterloo Rotary Club, describing current events through political, historical, social and religious lenses.

Nakhle serves Holy Family Maronite Church, a Lebanese congregation in Mendota Heights, Minn. He is fluent in Arabic, French, English and Italian. He also speaks Syriac Aramaic, Jesus’ native tongue.

The Maronite Church is the largest Christian denomination in Lebanon. It is united with the Roman Catholic Church but retains historic rituals, practices and traditions.

Nakhle came to the Cedar Valley through the American Association of Lutheran Churches and its retired bishop, the Rev. Dr. Duane Lindberg. The AALC forged the relationship with the Maronite denomination out of a desire to support the Middle East’s historically Christian populations.

“You have a Lutheran body giving money to a Roman Catholic body so close to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation; if that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is,” said Lindberg in introducing Nakhle.

Nakhle believes the current threat of fundamentalist Islamic groups and mismanagement of post-civil war Syria could obliterate the dwindling Christian population in Lebanon.

“The war in Syria caused civilian people to flee their homes and towns out of the surrounding countries, into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon,” said Nakhle. “Among the faith communities, Christians paid … the highest price (for the war), having been completely cleansed out from ISIS areas and from areas occupied by what’s defined ‘moderate opposition.'”

The loss of Lebanon’s Christian heritage would be dire, he added. “Christianity started in the Holy Land and spread first to the countries around, including Lebanon or Phoenicia, Syria and Mesopotamia, or Iraq,” said Nakhle. “The Apostles crossed the shores of Phoenicia to reach Antioch, the Roman capital of Syria.”

For decades, the Middle East has been marked by sectarian conflicts. However, the past 15 years have given rise to groups that exploit increased religious intolerance and fanaticism, said Nakhle.

“Christian communities struggle to survive in the midst of the rise of violence and radical Islam in the region today,” said Nakhle. “The situation of war in the Middle East is constantly changing.”

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