The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.
By Eli Stephan Mendelek President of Tur Levnon
Navigating the complexity of diversity is at the core of our Lebanese identity; a challenge only few could win, and at which we failed miserably most of the time. We are baked with diversity.
Geographically, our land is a complex mixture of plains, mountains, valleys, and seashores. Historically, each community has shaped its own identity based on its own unique founding myth. Various civilizations rooted in the various religions, cross their paths here, they all are born here, and they all intertwine here.
Pluralism takes different shapes and forms: it is in the culture, the customs, the dialects, and the languages. It is in the different political doctrines, creating a deep gap between those who sanctify obedience and those who sanctify freedom… between those who yearn for the Great Caliphate or Wilayat al-Faqih, and those who believe that Caesar is merely a caesar, and between those who believe that Lebanon is a sacred land and that God who was made flesh was treading its ravines.
Lebanon’s diversity is both its blessing and its curse. The curse sprang to life with the Mameluk’s invasion in 1305, and culminated when the Ottoman Caliphate abolished the self-autonomy granted to Mount Lebanon by the 5 major European states, and was seeking to exterminate the Christians through a deliberate famine.
Diversity is Lebanon’s curse because its leaders could never get over their “merchant” mindset. The trader mentality reflected in all their actions and political decisions. They tried to abolish diversity instead of exploring its potential. They tried to tame it under one educational curriculum, aiming to create a unified collective consciousness. They developed history and national education books that flattened all the nuances, hues, and divergences, claiming one ethnic-national identity for all communities, and imposing one official language for all. Naturally, the end result was a disaster: instead of reinforcing peace, it created wars, massacres, tragedies, and famines.
Today, diversity should be praised again as a blessing. It should be reflected in every aspect of our lives, proudly owned and claimed in our books, educational curricula, languages, and political system, knowing that there is no political system that emulates the Federal System in handling diversity.
Federalism allows diversity to bloom harmoniously, giving enough space for freedom and tolerance, allowing communities to preserve their identity, heritage, faith, culture, language, and customs. It protects the citizens from both the dictatorship of the majority and the dictatorship of the minority. It shuns the fears and phobias justly linked to asymmetrical demographic growth and the awakening of religious extremism, while protecting the citizens from the trap of resorting to radical solutions in politics and geography.
The Federal system preserves Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders. It protects Christian-Muslim coexistence, while fostering economic growth.
It’s time for Lebanon to live again. It’s time to implement the long-awaited modern Federal system.
Shouldn’t we finally give the Federal peace a chance?