Adonis Diaries

From the lens of Theology for Liberation? The consequences of the battle of Maysaloun (Syria) with the French mandated power in 1920

Posted on: October 29, 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

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