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memri
November 23, 2017 No.
7194

Senior Lebanese Journalist: Middle East Christians Don't Want American Help

On October 24-26, 2017, the American organization In Defence of Christians (IDC) held its annual summit in Washington D.C., attended by Christian religious leaders from across the Middle East, including Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rai. The summit was also attended by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed the danger posed to Middle East Christians by ISIS, and said: "The United States of America will always stand with those who suffer for their faith, and we will always support them in the hour of their need."[1]

Pence's remarks were met with cool and skeptical responses from some Lebanese Christian leaders. Elie Haddad, Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Sidon, commented: "I do not believe [the Americans'] statements because they always do the opposite of what they say," and mentioned similar promises made in the Obama era that had not been realized. He added: "The American favoring of the Christians does not benefit them... The Americans must help everyone, not only religious minorities." Lebanese Coptic leader Archbishop Louis Urshalimi spoke in the same vein, remarking: "Sadly, the Americans do not do what they say or what they promise." He stated further that the U.S. supports the Muslim Brotherhood, which harms the Copts. [2]


The IDC summit (image: Al-Nahar, Lebanon, October 28, 2017)

Ghassan Hajjar, managing editor of the Lebanese Al-Nahar daily, made similar remarks in an article titled "We Do Not Want American Help." He wrote that this help only makes the Christians in the Middle East look like "agents" and triggers hostility towards them on the part of others in their countries.

The following are excerpts from the article:[3]

"Religious and political leaders from Lebanon and the region applauded the direct and clear positions voiced by U.S. Vice President Michael Pence at the IDC summit in Washington, describing them as a strong message of support for the Christians and [other] minorities in the Middle East... [Pence indeed] made nice statements that raised the morale of the summit participants. [But] later there were lamentations from desperate people who understand very well that America's policy in the region has never supported them but has [only] exploited them for the sake of [American] interests and derived benefit from their being a group that nullifies the [Muslim] dominance in the region. The Christians understand, perhaps better than others, that the U.S. administration sold them out to Damascus and forced Syrian patronage on them, and that the Syrian warplanes would have never dared to bomb the Ba'abda Palace [residence of the Lebanese President] without a green light from the U.S. and Israel.[4] When the global policy changed, the Syrian army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in humiliation...

"The help promised by Pence is unwelcome, because it will only trigger hostility [towards Christians] in Arab and Muslim countries. Any uncalculated American interference harms the people it is intended [to help], turning them into a target for harm in their close environment and into persecuted foreigners in their natural habitat that are soon labeled as agents...

"Today, Christians with awareness no longer believe in this exaggerated American eagerness to help them, because all their crises are the result of the American policy. The Christians of Palestine emigrated [from their land] after the founding of the State of Israel because they were oppressed and their lands were seized. The Christians of Syria emigrated because of the current false wars [there]. The Christians of Iraq [emigrated] after the disintegration of the [Iraqi] regime's armed forces, which left the country at the mercy of fundamentalist organizations and chaos. The Christians of Egypt gained nothing more than a declaration stressing the need to defend them... The Christians of Lebanon were neglected for many years and the 'officer of 'Anjar'[5] tyrannized them. Had it not been for their resistance, they would never have survived, considering the losses they sustained, whose repercussions are evident to this day.

"Today we want no help that depends on the mood of a president who changes his views from one day to the next. We don't want to go to bed [thinking] we have help and then wake up not knowing where we stand. We have had enough of that."

 

 

[1] Whitehouse.gov, October 25, 2017.

[2] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), November 1, 2017.

[3] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), October 28, 2017.

[4] This refers to the entry of Syrian forces into Lebanon in 1990.

[5] An epithet for the Syrian patronage over Lebanon. The headquarters of the Syrian intelligence apparatus in Lebanon were located in the town of 'Anjar in the Beqaa Valley.