2. The Maronites: Their Present and Future Challenges
Instructor: Antoine Saad
Click HERE to get the text written in Arabic by Mr. Saad.
The Challenges that the Christians Face in Lebanon
Translated into English by Najwa Nasr
Several dangers stand in the face of the effectual Christian presence in Lebanon, and in consequence threaten its role during the first quarter of the twenty first century. Among those dangers are the ones resulting from its social environment and internal structure; others result from the enigmatic relationships with the rest of the religious sects in Lebanon; others still are a reflection of the critical status of the whole region; some are also the result of the international order that prevailed after the Second World War resulting in a change of the Western view point towards or interests in the Middle East.
Even more hazardous than all of the above is the total absence of a futuristic vision for Lebanon and the status of the Lebanese presence in it as well as the absence of a serious endeavor to clarify a comprehensive outlook for a communal life amongst the Lebanese, and the refusal to involve in a serious dialogue with the Moslem leaderships regarding their viewpoint of their futuristic role and intentions regarding the Christian presence in Lebanon.
Perhaps, the major reason for this critical Christian state is the long period of war that exhausted the Christians at all levels, followed by a period of Syrian military and political control that shook the fundamental constituents of the Christian presence politically, socially, economically, and demographically. However, the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 was supposed to bring about a period of stability during which the Christians would regain their status of rebuilding their political, social, and economic capabilities. On the contrary, the ensuing hard political and security events led to freeze the modernization of that structure and consequently to the incapacity to build the personal strength capable of confronting those major challenges that the Lebanese Christian presence in Lebanon was faced with.
For all the reasons mentioned above, and for the fact that the Lebanese Christians were vertically divided between the two poles of conflict in all the Arab countries and not only in Lebanon, meaning the Sunnis and the Shiites, they were not allowed to rise from their stumble, organize their ranks, and consecrate their capabilities to fortify their presence and deal with the issues that could threaten them in the years to come. Those issues, or rather latent challenges, are considered quite serious and could transform into elements harmful to the role of the Christians in both Lebanon and the Arab region if we do not rectify the causes and be heedful of the consequences. Following are the most important challenges which I will list and elaborate separately: the demographic fallback, the purchase of Christian owned land in various regions, the rupture of connections between the Lebanese abroad and their homeland, the naturalization of tens of thousands of non-Christians, the escalation of the factors that cause emigration, the instability of the Lebanese situation and its reflection on economic development, and the continuation of regional crises that cause the Lebanese situation to remain vulnerable, and finally the involvement of the international community with matters other than the Lebanese ones considering the latter a secondary issue on the list of priorities.
Those are big major challenges for the Lebanese Christians; however, the Christian history, and in particular the history of the Maronites, has never been at any time easier than what it is nowadays. Yet, the Christians were able to triumph and benefit from certain turns in history and some favorable circumstances to achieve gains that safeguarded their continuity and capability to develop their skills and move from a state of defense for survival to a period of interaction with the peoples of the Arab Levant and leave an impact on the course of their civilization. It is important to stress on and point to the role played by the Christian Lebanese immigrants during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the most part of the twentieth century to support the project of creating Greater Lebanon and defend it whenever it was threatened.
A. The Demographic Fallback
The basic challenge that threatens the effectual Christian presence in Lebanon in particular, and in both the Near and the Middle East in general, is the demographic fallback and consequently the decrease in the percentage of the Christians with respect to the total population count. It is self-evident that this demographic fallback would reflect negatively on their role, their effectiveness, their presence, and their impact on the goings-on in the various sectors of the Lebanese public life in general. The percentage of the Christian Lebanese according to the 1920 census was higher than that of the Moslem one (55% Christians and 45% Moslems); nowadays, that percentage has changed dramatically and became 65% for the Moslem sects and 35% only for the Christian sects altogether.
The most significant factors that led to the fast Christian demographic fallback in an unusual manner are three: the intensive emigration of the Christians, the fallback in the birthrate among the Christian families, and the 1994 Naturalization Decree.
Emigration was the principle factor that led to a fallback in the growth of the Lebanese Christian population; especially because the return of the emigrants decreased in time, and the concern of the Lebanese immigrants to register their children grew less and less. On the other hand, the Lebanese Moslem immigrants seem to express greater attachment to both issues than the Christians do; they hold on strongly to their national identity and to the links with their homeland and their villages, as well as to an interest in the political, economic, and developmental affairs. Many Moslem religious leaders and men of thought, since the thirties, the eighties, and the nineties of the twentieth century, have pointed to this issue and bet on its role in tipping off the balance sooner or later.
The causes of emigration were and still are economic in the first place. Many contemporaries of the first immigration waves relate that the greater percentage of the immigrants, up to the beginning of WWI, were keen on returning to their homeland to buy property and build “brick-roofed” houses as an expression of their achieved prosperity and success in the countries of their immigration. However, the long absence from Lebanon caused by the war, in addition to the long distances, as well as the continued economic straits which escalated at the end of the twenties and the beginning of the thirties due to an international crisis, all were factors that led to the loss of the strong bonds with the homeland. All and notwithstanding the regulations in effect in the countries of immigration that strictly forbade carrying two nationalities.
Furthermore, the war that erupted in Lebanon in 1975 and lasted till 1990, added a security cause that contributed to the multiplication of the number of emigrants, especially following the displacement of whole Christian towns and villages in the southern suburbs of Beirut (Haret Horeyck, Mraijeh, Tehwitat al-Ghadir…), the Bekaa, North Lebanon, Mount Lebanon, the region east of Sidon, and others. After the war ended, another reason caused a new wave of emigration and that was the Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, which tightened the grip on the Christian elites and cadres in the Christian political parties due to their opposition to Syria. That was a reason for many Christian Lebanese youth to emigrate for good; while on the other hand, the non-Christians held on strongly to the homeland despite the economic straits even after the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the absence of a political pretext.
- The fallback in birthrates among the Christian families:
This fallback was due basically to social reasons related to the civil life of consumption that swept most of the regions and milieus with a Christian majority in particular after the surge in the migration from the countryside to the cities during the forties, fifties, and sixties of the twentieth century. That migration led to a significant decrease in the birthrate caused by the life style prevalent in cities and along the coastal region where agricultural communities, distinguished by a high birthrate, faded gradually. On the other hand, improvement in the level of education, both at the school and at the university levels, led to amelioration in the standard of living causing as well a rise in the cost of living, which led many Christian families to adopt the choice of less number of children for a better standard of living. In contrast, the Moslem families in Lebanon, and they are country people in their majority, have a high birthrate reaching sometimes thirty or even thirty eight children of one father but more than one female spouse.
In addition to the social causes for the rise in birthrate among the Moslem families, there are the strategies adopted by the Shiite communities during the sixties, the seventies, and the eighties, and among the Sunni communities during the nineties and the first decade of the twenty first century, strategies that strongly encourage child birth. The political parties and currents in both Moslem sects still apply that strategy based on the huge social and financial assistance they are offered by the oil countries.
- The 1994 Naturalization Decree:
Very simply, the unfair and illegal 1994 Naturalization Decree, which granted the Lebanese nationality to more than one hundred thousand Sunnis, thirty to forty thousand Shiites, and only forty thousand Maronites, caused a serious demographic imbalance. Even more serious was the distribution of the newly naturalized citizens in the electoral districts and regions of a Christian majority such as the Caza of Zahlé thus changing its identity and consequently controlling its political decision. It is superfluous to say that the naturalized Moslems were not members of an educated community that could live in harmony with the Christian communities and pursue the same rate in child birth; on the contrary, birthrate among those communities still reaches record rates.
GRADING SCALE FOR EACH SECTION OF EACH SESSION
0 ; 1 ; 2 ; 3
0 (Not Submitted);
1 (Poor: little effort; little work done; not very relevant -- Good, but Late)
2 (Good: good effort; answered questions appropriately; relevant -- Very Good, but Late)
3 (Very Good: great effort; answered questions very well; answers based both on text and on relevant (listed) outside sources,
and they demonstrate higher order thinking skills)
TOTAL: 100 Points
20 %: Session 1 || 20 %: Session 2
20 %: Session 3 || 20 %: Session 4
20 %: Participation [Engagement and Motivation],
Attitude, & Aspirations
(Interactions on Facebook Group + Page play a big role)