10/22/2019 Lebanon (International Christian Concern) – Over the past week, Lebanon has become embroiled in spontaneous popular protests against the government, revealing deep-seated feelings and social disconnects towards the nation’s civil administration.
Last Thursday, the government began putting together legislation including a 20 cent tax on each international call through the online app WhatsApp and other similar applications which could be used for the same purpose. This sparked immediate protests. Such civil disturbances began across the densely-populated segments of the nation and span religious and social lines. With protests being so wide-spread, the government quickly binned the entire idea. Yet, it was too late.
The mass protests, revealing long-dissatisfied feelings of the Lebanese population, had gone from protesting one piece of legislation to demanding a complete reformation of the Lebanese economic system, if not a complete replacement and restructuring of the government itself. A notable difference between this series of protests and similar occurrences elsewhere in the Muslim world is that the Lebanese were fairly non-violent.
The head of the Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces party urged government officials to step down on Friday in light of the protests. One Christian governmental figure has stepped down, though many officials still remain in their positions.
Previous, Lebanon experienced a brutal, massively destructive Civil War between 1975 and 1990. This conflict was fought over a number of issues, but rapidly became a conflict fought between religious lines. The population of the area is markedly diverse, with Sunni and Shia Islam each comprising about 29% of the population and Christianity, mostly of the Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox varieties, making up about 35%. Coming out of the Civil War, the Taif Accord entrenched the rules regarding who could fill what leading position in government based on individual religious confessions.
However, an unintended consequence of establishing such a rigid, religiously-dictated allocation of power was the intricate system of corrupt patronage and nepotism that ensued. Poor financial management on the part of the government has kept the country far from reaching its full societal and economic potential, and providing a situation of stagnancy for the population to live with.
In light of the consistent demands for reform, the Christian parties comprising a large measure of the coalition government have withdrawn their public support and ministers from the government, further destabilizing the reigning heads of state. The government of Lebanon must now decide on how to react to these new popular demands and, should they combat the call to step down collectively, how far they are willing to go to maintain power.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].