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Time to hold Hezbollah accountable: Christians under fire in Lebanon

Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria, in Harisa, Jounieh, Lebanon.
Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria, in Harisa, Jounieh, Lebanon. | REUTERS/HASAN SHAABAN

The Lebanese Christian strong political impact has always been part of Lebanon's unique character and identity. Still, Hezbollah's militia is trying to change this reality with a series of threats to Christian leaders. 

The armed militia that enjoys tremendous dominance in Lebanon is trying to subordinate the Christians of Lebanon and turn them into another weak minority in the Middle East that does not have a role in the political scene in their historic homeland. 

The latest aggression by Hezbollah manifested itself against the prominent Christian leader Ibrahim Murad, the President of the Syriac Union Party in Lebanon, now skulking from Hezbollah's militants after he called on the Lebanese people to protest the militia's hegemony that's dragging Lebanon into an economic and political collapse. 

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Murad's calls during a media interview were misinterpreted by Shia media networks close to Hezbollah as sectarian anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

Murad was summoned and questioned by a criminal detective close to Hezbollah and released a few hours later due to a medical issue, but he was again summoned for further investigation. 

Besides investigating Murad, Hezbollah's media is portraying him as an enemy of Muslims and Islam, which caused Murad to go into hiding until today as extremists close to Hezbollah are calling for his death. 

From his unknown location, Murad clarified that he did not target the Muslims in Lebanon in his previous interview, where he was asking the Lebanese people to protest Hezbollah's corruption. 

In his statement, Murad insisted that Hezbollah's threats and fabricated rhetoric won't stop him from speaking up against the Iran-linked Lebanese militia. 

Murad as a Christian leader may resist the threats. Still, many Christians are giving up and choosing to leave Lebanon. It’s increasingly becoming a place where Christians can’t thrive and express themselves freely. 

Many similar incidents have happened in the last few years where Hezbollah tried to terrorize Christian leaders, whether directly through government branches close to the militia, or armed men close to the party. 

A few months ago, the Lebanese Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage was detained and summoned to court after coming back to Lebanon from a trip to the Maronite churches in Israel. 

In October 2021, Hezbollah militants terrorized the Christian neighborhood of Tayoneh by dispatching the Shia fighters into the area, armed with anti-tank missiles and heavy weapons, chanting sectarian anti-Christian slogans. This incident happened while Hezbollah was trying to protest the decisions of the Lebanese Christian judge Tarq Bitar who is investigating the 2020 Beirut port explosion that led to the destruction of many Christian neighborhoods.

While the world was busy trying to defeat the Islamic State, another Islamic Shia state has risen in the Levant and Iraq. It's time to understand that Iran-backed militia, especially the one that has de facto control over Lebanon, is causing endless suffering and damage to the stability of the entire Levant.

Seeing Lebanon turning from a free community and a safe haven for Christians in the region is killing the last hope for the indigenous Christian community in the Middle East.

The time to hold Hezbollah accountable is long overdue. The US and its regional partners can take more severe steps to loosen Hezbollah's control over Lebanon. It's never too late to save Lebanon from Iran's clutches. With determined leaders like Ibraheem Murad, Samir Geagea, and many more Christian, Sunni, Druz, and even Shia figures, it's still possible to form a strong front that can lead the struggle against Hezbollah. All it takes is a firm American decision to support the Lebanese people in their battle to take Lebanon back.

Hadeel Oueis is a Philos Project Senior Fellow.

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