Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 29th, 2021

Christ in Maysaloun: A New Lens For Liberation Theology

 28th October 2021

By Miriam Charabati

Lebanon was willed into existence after the battle of Maysaloun. The church stood proud as the most prominent religious institution that has refuted its oriental roots and adopted an imposed Latinization of its traditions, values, norms, and beliefs.

Like all other nations, Lebanon needed a myth to support its creation. Lebanon geographically was part of historic Phoenicia (whose string of City-States extended from Gaza to Turkey and became the supreme sea power on the Mediterranean Sea for 1000 year).

Phoenicia was not limited to Lebanon’s geographic location. Disregarding that fact and adopting the myth of Phoenician identification as it seemingly opposed both Syria and Palestine Arabism was the perfect myth to create a Lebanon under the leadership of the Patriarch of Antioch and the rest of the East.

The father of Lebanonism was the venerable Peter Elias Howayek, Patriarch at the time, and was given the glory of Lebanon by the French, who had decreed the borders of Lebanon were based on their war with the British.

The role of missionaries (Catholic and Evangelical sects) in the past century has not been secretive. They had a colonial role (through private schools and universities) that sought to uproot future generations from their cultural heritage.

The ultimate goal is to create a framework that allows these generations to refute their history and cultural heritage and to adopt a set of projected values that serve colonial powers.

These values are employed in the project of plundering the local wealth in the Middle-East (particularly dividing the one People into small States with fictitious borders) and developing human resources that support that project.

With plunder and divide to rule being the mission of colonial powers it is essential to understand the significance of portraying Lebanon as a Christian country like no other.

Noting that Christian monuments are more present and valuable in Palestine and Syria than they are in Lebanon in terms of geographical location.

That being said it is time to reflect on Liberation Theology and look at how such theory can be used to liberate Western Asian Christians from colonial Christianity. In the West, indigenous populations have been liberated or are in the process of liberating themselves from the Church as an entire institution. A very prominent example would be the indigenous peoples of Canada and their fight against the cruelty of residential schools from which they continue to suffer. The last residential school was closed in 1996, which is to show how recent these struggles are. The fight against Christian colonialism is not a fight against Christ, rather a fight for Christ.

For in the center of Palestine is the Church of The Resurrection. In Syria, is the birthplace and residence of Saint Maron, whose followers have founded the Maronite Church. This is to say that the French had interest in “preserving” Christian heritage from Islamic threat.

Christians, and the hundred of various Christian sects that spread in the Near-East after Jesus Crucification had been under Islamic rule since 650 AC for hundreds of years and despite tribal wars, the religious artefacts and historical monuments continue to stand to this very day and age.

In Latin America, Liberation Theology sought to protect the poor and help them liberate themselves from economic exploitation (by the colonial powers and their stooges of dictators).

In Western Asia (meaning the Middle-East), Liberation Theology should be a tool used to help Christians liberate themselves from political and cultural exploitation in the first place and economic exploitation in the second place.

The Church in Lebanon receives hefty monetary privileges every year that is untaxable and yet Christians continue to suffer heavy economic circumstances without seeing any support from the Church. (It is a fact that the various religious sects in Lebanon hoard more than 50% of the land)

If Christ were amongst us, he would have sold the gold in the churches and the Patriarch’s scepter and fed every person incapable of feeding themselves, taught every student struggling to get an education, and refuted any political neutrality when it comes to the exploitation of his followers and anyone within his reach. For it was He who kicked the temple merchants.

In liberating our church from colonial implications, we realize that our church extends beyond our borders. Perhaps, one could also argue that it extends beyond faith and it can seep into multiple cultures to unite in its core values and beliefs much more people than its fanatic projection ever can.

Looking at most of the recent political upheavals across Western Asia, it is clear that we are witnessing the same war we had in 1920.

Except, this time, the axis of resistance has much more power and a functional strategy that Arabists back in the day failed to have. We also see that the Christian church is committing to doing the same mistakes it did and go for a second round of the Maysaloun battle for the sake of imperial powers.

As Christians, it has become clear that many of us have felt detached from our surroundings because the church has always believed that it was superior due to its colonial standing. In fact, the church has failed to protect Christians across Western Asia and the only protection and support these groups had was from the Axis of resistance. (The axes of resistance are the political parties and organizations that view Israel as an existential threat to our development and social security)

Christians in the region are starting to lose faith in the church as an institution and, in many ways, this affects their faith. For Christians, in many regions, it is starting to feel like they have to choose between being Christians or belonging to their cultural heritage.

This is how distant the institution has become from the people. The road to liberating this church from colonialism and imperialism is to accept our Christian heritage as an aspect of the cultural heritage denouncing the institution of the church in its politics while having faith in a Christ liberated from this colonial church.

The various Muslim empires have harassed and excluded Christians from major political posts, after the first century of their existence, but it is mostly the colonial powers that threatened Christian presence and the many Christian sects/churches that have destroyed Christian communities across Western Asia.

Is it time for Christian voices to make it clear that they will not fight another battle at Maysaloun.

Note 1: You may refer to my previous article for further knowledge on Theology for Liberation

Note 2: Comments in parenthesis are mine

Liberation Theology: What Western Asian Christians Can Learn From Latin America

Note: This is the original English version. The previous post was my editing version and comments.

To be noted that what is meant by Christian churches in the Middle East are mainly the Maronites and the Catholic Greeks and those sects that pay allegiance to Papal Rome, theologically and politically

The struggle of entities has been overcome, and a unifying factor emerged. This resulted in reframing the struggle from a local entity-based struggle for power to a full-blown war against a hundred years of imperialism.

When we look at the current state of world politics, it is clear that we are witnessing changes that will result in dynamic and irreversible consequences. Whether we look at the Global North, the Global South, or even countries whose standing is generally disagreed upon, the alterations are unquestionable.

While the changes are happening on the economic, social, and political stages and the argument might vary depending on the lens through which it is perceived, it remains that the underlying philosophical problematic can unite the argument across the three stages.

If we look at Western Asia (meaning the Middle-East region and States), the most recent dynamic discussion has been framed to be between an undefined search for a secular Western Asia, on the one hand, and religiosity, divided between radical Christianity and radical Islamism, on the other hand. This framing fails to result in any radical change, and that is due to the fact that it is based on a false premise and that the social construct does not adhere, even remotely, to the premise it is claiming. 

The main argument for a secular Western Asia has been promoted throughout the era of Arab Spring, the Syrian crisis, and most recently the Lebanese crisis. The ideal premise is that in a secular Western Asia, democracy and equality dominate all social, political, and economic life. While secularism here remains undefined and has resulted in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and radical Islamists and terror groups have shredded the Arab Syrian Republic.

That is due to the fact that by definition (democracy and equality) is inherently neither sectarian nor secular. It is my greatest belief that the current situation is put into historical context. This historical context debates the state of being of each entity within Western Asia, prior to dictating the dynamics of governing. This is a topic to be debated and detailed in another article to be published in the near future. However, some basic aspects are to be outlined immediately in order to discuss the fate of minorities in the upcoming changes bound to happen in the region. 

The main idea is to understand that all entities created as a result of the Sykes-Picot agreement are unsustainable. The reason is that they were created according to specific prerequisites such as a rentier economic system that can be controlled remotely through the banking and services sectors.

Another aspect is the strategic function that each entity was created to fulfill, and which was based on the necessity of the colonial and imperial power’s needs for licit and illicit economic expansion. The strategic functioning also serves as a soft power and hard power tool in the global struggle of world domination and superiority. Another reason these entities were developed (with reservations on this terminology) and further employed through soft and hard power to become the entities they have become is the need for forced underdevelopment. Entities become a hindrance once they become in and by themselves productive and independent, thus the establishing of a rentier system and hiring the services of an economic hitman. 

This world of entities has been challenged in the past couple of decades, some would say more, through the development of local resistance groups that will later become what are now considered major players in the region and crucial bodies of the axis of resistance on the regional level. For the major part, these groups have ideological and religious beliefs that have found a way to identify with the national and regional interests of the era. The struggle of entities has been overcome, and a unifying factor emerged. This resulted in reframing the struggle from a local entity-based struggle for power to a full-blown war against a hundred years of imperialism. 

This brings us to the topic at hand in which politics, religion, and history come together. Religion has a moral duty to defend the oppressed and the weak, in the face of oppression, arrogance, and crime. The war against imperialism and the global plunderer is specifically a war to the victor, the oppressed weak, and incapable. This poses the question of the Christian church in Western Asia and its political alliance with the colonizer and imperial powers. While the reason for that is definitely clear, it contradicts the very essence of Christianity and the cause of Christ. 

A similar incident in Latin America has caused a revolution across the continent and across the church as an institution. It resulted in Liberation Theology reaching the ends of the world as a revolutionary version of what has become an institutionalized, colonial, church. In 1973, a book titled “A Theology of Liberation” was written by Gustavo Gutierrez. The book was later translated and edited by Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson.

Gutierrez was at the time a Peruvian philosopher, Catholic theologian, and Dominican priest, regarded as one of the founders of Latin American liberation theology. 

At the time, Latin America was the largest continent with a majority Christian population suffering from oppression and social injustice. Gutierrez dedicated the entire first chapter of his book to reflect on classical theology as wisdom as well as an entity of rational knowledge. He further offered a historical context and reflections that led to conclusions that reframe Christianity outside of colonial and imperial alliances.

This very approach is much needed today in Western Asia. After years of genocide, immigration, and terrorism against several countries in the region, Christians have suffered the most. While the Church of Antioch and All the East is located in Lebanon, it is supposed to serve the Christian cause beyond the limits of Lebanese Christian presence and politics. In 1920, after the battle of Maysaloun, Lebanon was established.

The Lebanese Christians have been ever since identified as French counterparts and have distinguished themselves from the rest of the Arabs. Christian Arabs that were in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan were also distinguished from Lebanese Christians. This arrogance and alliance has cost Lebanon blood and reframed the history of the people living within its borders to fit the storyline and made-up Franco identity. This identity will from here on out be referred to as the crusades Christians. 

Christians in Western Asia have historical, cultural, and ethnic roots that extend and spill beyond the borders of a 10452 km2 Lebanon. This is the time for the church to liberate itself from the alliance that cost it its identity. The church as a global institution has committed atrocious crimes, from the crusades to residential schools and many other incidents. It has functioned for decades as a colonial tool through missionaries. It is time for us, Arab Christians, to reclaim our right, to reclaim our Christ; the one who was put on a cross because he refused to deny his beliefs, who welcomed death if it meant the truth and did not change his story for the sake of survival.

Our Christian identity requires a revolution that now has a nurturing environment and an axis of resistance that is willing to protect its presence across the region as it has been proven time and time again in Palestine, Iraq, and Syria. The church has a moral duty to resist the imperial powers.

Otherwise, what is this Christianity we are talking about if it remains neutral in the face of oppression and injustice merely to maintain Western approval and social status for its clergy, all the while ignoring its moral duty to protect people? 

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al Mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.




October 2021

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