The recent fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants at the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp was possibly the worst internal violence in Lebanon since the civil war ended in 1990. About one year ago, peace in Lebanon was shattered after militants with Hezbollah, the Iran-supported terrorist group, killed three Israeli soldiers and took two others as hostages near the Israeli border. That set off eight weeks of violence in the region. Four thousand rockets and countless bombs later, 162 Israelis and more than 1,000 Lebanese were dead, and billions of dollars in property were destroyed. Hezbollah still has the hostages.

Such violence is taking place in a unique country in the Middle East, the nation with the highest percentage of Christians in the region. That percentage is falling, as it is elsewhere in the region, but Christians were the majority until 40 years ago. At the village level, Christian and Muslim relationships sometimes go back generations. One cannot understand Lebanon's situation without taking into account its distinctive religious environment.

Beirut-based journalist Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian Christian, reported on and lived through the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. An American citizen, he is editor-at-large of The Daily Star, the largest English-language newspaper in the Middle East. He is also director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

Journalist Charles Strohmer interviewed Khouri several times during the last few months in order to understand recent events and the political-religious interplay between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon.

The suffering of Palestinians in refugee camps is awful, and it speaks volumes ...

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Christianity Today
The Christian Message in Lebanon
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August 2007

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