07/30/2022 Lebanon (International Christian Concern) – As Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s six-year term approaches its October 31 close, Christians in Lebanon are concerned for their nation’s future. Lebanon’s historically Christian presidency, an important vestige of the religious community’s declining influence in the country, could worryingly fall to one of four individuals, none of whom are particularly popular with the nation’s Christian community. First, the current president, Aoun, could receive an indefinitely extended term. Second, Aoun could pass on the presidency to his son-in-law, Gibran Bassil, who is essentially his political heir. Third, Bassil could surrender his own presidential aspirations to back Suleiman Frangieh, his friend and Hezbollah’s top choice for the position. Fourth, and perhaps most disastrous for Christians, should no candidate be chosen before October, Lebanon’s Muslim Prime Minister Najib Mikati may become the acting President in the power vacuum.
These presidential prospects, unfortunately, continue the trend of Lebanese Christian disappointment and outrage over their political leadership. Earlier this year, President Aoun angered his Christian community with statements that he made while visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican. During the visit, undertaken with the slogan “Christians are well,” Aoun said that Hezbollah’s weapons had “no influence in any way” on Lebanese security. Christians immediately began protesting the president’s statements by reposting stories and images online showing instances where Hezbollah weapons were turned on Christians. These instances included assassinations, murders, and other violence. One major Christian politician commented publicly in response, “Through his visit to the Vatican and his statements, Aoun tried to acquit Hezbollah, saying that it protects Christians in Lebanon, and that is the epitome of fabrication and offense to Lebanon and completely contradicts the truth.”
Overall, Christians in Lebanon face an unfortunate political reality. The Christian presidential candidates Aoun, Bassil, and Frangieh are all sympathetic to Hezbollah, and the other likely option to fill the role besides them is the Muslim Prime Minister Mikati. Unfortunately, this conundrum well reflects the declining Christian political influence in the state of Lebanon.
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