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Churches of the East: At the Service of Oppression - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Carlos Edde, head of the Lebanese National Bloc party made some important comments regarding Michel Aoun’s recent visit to Syria. He said, “It seems that General Aoun gained experience from this visit, as well as his previous visit to Iran, in how to exploit the church to serve the interests of totalitarian regimes.”

This means that Aoun’s alliance with Syria and Iran has compelled Lebanese Christians to ally with fundamentalist and oppressive regimes. This will have serious consequences, the most important of which will affect the Christians of the East as a whole.

Since the establishment of the Arab states in their modern form, the Christians of the East, as a whole, have played an important, active role. They have fulfilled a constructive role as political, cultural and economic symbols in most of the Arab world. The pan-Arab Christian role was an important one even as part of the armed resistance in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Today, through his alliance with Syria and Iran, Aoun has turned things around and placed the Christians of Lebanon, and the East, in the line of fire, especially as we are witnessing the Arab countries fighting an ideological and physical war against extremists and confronting them in a continuous manner. So how can Aoun throw himself into the arms of Syrian political extremism and religious fundamentalism in Iran?

Baathist Syria is a model of political extremism and the people of Lebanon are fully aware of that. Moreover, Syria is the only country (after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq) to have occupied a fellow Arab country, namely Lebanon, and it continues to make every effort to control Lebanon through the Lebanese themselves.

Aoun is moving away from his violent hostility towards Damascus at a time when even Syria is changing. However, Syria is heading in a different direction as it is now negotiating with Israel, albeit indirectly, and no longer raises slogans of resistance except to incite others. At the same time, Syria is flirting with Washington and US President-elect Barack Obama.

Moreover, Aoun is forming an alliance with Tehran and its Lebanese party, namely Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah, while Tehran’s role in the region today has a serious impact on the security and unity of the Arab states. Aoun is standing in a row that does not even attract the curious lenses of the cameras.

Just picture the scene: Aoun standing with Hassan Nasrallah, Khaled Meshal, Muqtada al Sadr and the Quds Force. Furthermore, the timing of the alliance with Iran was eye-catching just like the alliance with Syria. We only need to look at what happened to the Christians of Iraq and those who failed to protect them.

For proof of the danger in Aoun’s actions, we only need to look at two recent events that took place on the same day in Iran and we will see two contradictory images. The first event was the demonstration that took place outside the Saudi embassy where people protested against inter-faith dialogue. The second event was the demonstration at an Iranian university calling for democracy and denouncing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.

Aoun is allied with the first image; the image of Mullahs protesting against inter-faith dialogue and peaceful coexistence with others. He is not forming an alliance with the second image; the image of those calling for democracy and a dignified life. If the Iranians themselves are demonstrating against Ahmadinejad’s regime, then how can Michel Aoun ally himself with one who harms his own country and nation?

This is where the importance of Carlos Edde’s comments lies; he highlighted the threat and warned against the danger of churches in the East becoming a tool to serve oppressive regimes.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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