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We must consider too that thousands of Christian families had taken refuge under the protection of Abd al-Qadir al-Jazairei, at his citadel, while Muslim families in the city offered sanctuary to their frightened Christian neighbours. This was not because they were less faithful or “moderate” in today’s terminology, but because all of them, Muslim and Christian, stood by what their religions commanded them to do, which is to treat their neighbours with compassion.

All of this is still relevant to the current reality of the war in Syria, because while the foreign powers were declaring that it had become impossible for Christians to continue living in such a country as Syria was in the 1860s, the reality proved them wrong. The Muslim-majority society in cooperation with the minorities from other religions had been able to heal (even if not completely), despite all the efforts that might have prevented it from achieving this.

The Christians had continued to live next-door to their Muslim neighbours, their churches and mosques side by side. But their cities were changing beyond their control. Syria as a country was moving into a continuous decline despite the resistance of its society, which can explain the mismatch between the brittle surface and the flexibility and adaptability of the once-settled communities beneath it.

The trajectory of decline continued with the decision of the international committee (consisting of Austria, Great Britain, France, Prussia and Russia) “investigating” the crimes of the 1860s to dispatch their foreign troops to reestablish order. Despite the realisation that the division of Lebanon in 1842 (the division they made way for) had been the main reason for the exacerbating of the events which had led to the civil war, the resolution of the committee was to further divide the region.

As a result Lebanon became isolated as a Christian territory, with an assigned tribal system of sects to “rule” it. Then came the Sykes-Picot accord, and the French mandate; and with the mandate the modern “rational” town planning that has shaped our cities and societies into conflicting tribes and brought with it a new kind of nomadism — a nomadism imposed by architecture that is cleansed of the aspect of home.

Things are not so different today: the West still looks on our region as in great chaos which needs to be put into Tupperware boxes. The problem is that the more categorisations there are, the further we drift from any real solution. Even inclusiveness is approached by tossing in “one of each” as in some big salad bowl. It seems to me irrational to unravel our social fabric thread by thread simply because it is showing wear and tear, and as a result to stand naked and unprotected.

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An Gíogóir
September 4th, 2017
2:09 PM
Talk about a one sided account. It is indeed true, that in some cases, Christians were protected by their immediate neighbours. But it was solely because of Western intervention that the Christians of the area weren't exterminated, as they were in Anatolia.

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