By Amine Jules Iskandar Syriac Maronite Union-Tur Levnon
A country that has taken so many centuries to build can not disappear. Unless in a collective suicide, a frantic mass emigration, or through the exhaustion of a generation ignorant of its history and having no idea what it is leaving behind. To paraphrase Arnold Toynbee; is our civilization committing suicide? Lebanon did not come about by chance. It took centuries to evolve and establish itself in this hostile region. There are people, however, who no longer want to be part of this story and put their faith in exile in better lands. Others are highly weary of faith and religions without realizing that the matter of religion is really about cultures, belonging, and values.
Some globalist elitists want to rebuild Lebanon and start with a clean slate. They exaggeratedly value secularism while sacrificing and squandering the very pillars that have proven highly valuable over the centuries. But can these poetic and secular ideals really confront the totalitarian and ultra-religious monster borne by an ideological hysteria? We have, on various past occasions, fought off similar invading plagues. We have always managed to defeat them through the institutions to which we still attach so much importance. For there is reality and there is idealism. Idealism consists in wanting to defy the terrorist religious militias with progressive slogans, and to brave the occupation, in the same manner as we brave the problem of administrative corruption. Fighting corruption requires revolution, it is true, but occupation requires liberation.
Our ancestors have fought too long for us to simply give up today. We have watered this mountain too much with our blood, with our monasteries, schools, villages, bell towers, terraced crops, Calvaries and thatched cottages. We overcame the Mamluk genocide of 1285-1305, the Kafno genocide-famine of 1914-18, and finally the war of the 1970s-1980s where we had to face mercenaries from all 4 corners of the world. And we possess this devotion and strong particularity! Precisely during the centuries of occupation, we have continued to shape and sculpt our mountains and develop our cultural institutions. Something the Middle East envies us for.
Resistance is a duty and must develop at various levels, including at the microeconomic level, in energy and infrastructure at the municipal level, in educational institutions and in the health sector. One of the crucial aspects of resistance is also that millenary structures such as the Church and its many institutions should be further developed and re-adapted. In addition, there is the aspect of cultural resistance, even spiritual resistance, which has proven itself in history in e.g., France and Poland. This dimension of cultural resistance inspires us most because it seems to form the soul of the resistance.
While the voice of the resistance in exile resounds in “Ici Londres” (“Here London”), it is on French soil that the Jesuit Pierre Chaillet secretly publishes his Cahiers du Témoignage Chrétien, the first of which is entitled “France, beware of not losing your soul.” For the first target of a hostile totalitarian enemy is the soul of a nation. It seeks to destroy this soul, which makes cultural resistance as essential as military resistance. A few months earlier, Pastor André Trocmé exclaimed: “There will be tremendous pagan pressure on ourselves and on our families, in an attempt to lead us into passive submission to the totalitarian ideology… It is the duty of all Christians to oppose the violence inflicted on their consciences with the weapons of the Spirit.” Now is the time to write, publish, and denounce, from here, “Ici Beyrouth” (here in Beirut), on our occupied national territory.
The case of Poland is even more striking and similar to ours. This country, like Lebanon united in 1919-1920, was occupied by the Nazis from 1939. It suffered tremendous war crimes resulting in up to five million deaths. The Poles fought back hard, endured the most terrible reprisals, only to find themselves liberated from the Nazis and occupied by the Soviet Union. Lebanon is by no means the only country to have gone from one occupation to another. And this should in no way be a pretext to abandon Lebanon. It was national culture and faith that saved Catholic Poland from the most atheistic, totalitarian, and inhumane ideologies, from the Nazi far right to the Marxist far left.
Karol Wojtyla was born in 1920, the year of Poland’s independence and unification. At the age of 19, he witnessed the Nazi bombing of Krakow and the deportation of 300 young academics. Having escaped arrest, he worked several factory jobs while engaged in cultural resistance. In 1948, his country became Stalinist and was chosen as the site for the construction of Nowa Huta, the city without a church, built as a symbol and manifesto of communism.
In this icy city, Karol Wojtyla faced totalitarianism for another 30 years while he held Masses in the open air and in the middle of winter for thousands of believers. In 1977, Wojtyla won his first victory with the consecration of a new church. “Nowa Huta was conceived as a city without God. But the will of God prevailed. Let this serve as a lesson,” he declared. A year later he was elected Pope and brought down the Iron Curtain and the entire Soviet bloc. “God has conquered the East,” he proclaimed in front of thousands of pilgrims.
Many Lebanese have already put a cross over Lebanon and have chosen to leave. No one can restore their faith. It is a purely personal journey. But the resistance must continue despite everything. While certain revolutionary dreams, theories, and social struggles seem to have become obsolete, where the future contains immense gray areas and uncertainties, experience teaches us that despite terror and totalitarianism, the Church always wins in the end.
Dr Amine Jules Iskandar is an architect and the former president of the Syriac Maronite Union – Tur Levnon. Amine Jules Iskandar has written several articles on the Syriac Maronites, their language, culture, and history. You can follow him @Amineiskandar2
The views expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.
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