From civil war to the latest Syrian uprisings, Lebanon has surely had its fair share of turmoil. Over the countries history, it has dealt with being controlled by foreigners, as well as many internal struggles. More recently, Syrian instability is looking to have negative impacts throughout many aspects of the country, including business, politics, and economic issues.
Arguments have been fueled in part due to the richly diverse people that make up Lebanon. Religious groups as well as political and terrorist organizations have strong opposition of each other, including issues of whom they support. As Syrian refugees continue to pour over the border into Lebanon, certain groups are gaining more support. Clashes between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian groups have led to mass kidnappings and many deaths. One report noted that more than 5,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed in August alone. Protests have turned deadly and violence has continued to surface in the streets of many cities. Cities farther north, especially those nearer to the border of Syria, have seen the most damage. Syrian war planes, car bombs, and deadly protests have caused major damage over the past few months. This has prompted extra security precautions throughout the country. Some other Middle Eastern countries have even urged their citizens to flee the country and have spoken against traveling within Lebanon until this unrest is resolved.
Different religious and political sects throughout the country have started many uprisings amongst themselves. For instance, Sunni and Shiite Muslims have fought over their support or lack thereof of Syria’s president and Hezbollah. Other sects, as well as Syrian refugees, have also helped to fuel this fire by violently voicing their opinions. Christians have even gotten involved, and a fine line has started to emerge between divided viewpoints within the religion.
More recently, the Pope has spoken about matters within Lebanon, in part due to his future visit, planned for September 14th. Many people have spoken about the increasing dangers Christians in the Middle East face. Their future, as well as their well being, rely on Lebanon, Syria, and other prominent Middle Eastern countries’ ability to end the turmoil and come to peaceful terms internally as well as with each other. As the Pope prepares for meetings and a mass during his visit, he has voiced how important it is for the coexistence of all groups within Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East.
The United States saw a similar visit from the Pope in 2008, when he spent time preaching about hope and faith. Just as Christianity is somewhat breaking down in the Middle East, similarities throughout the U.S. have been seen. Although it is not due to the same reasons, the Pope addressed this issue because of how important it is to maintain a healthy future of Christianity. He shined light on the idea that American’s may have lost sight of the importance of religion in their daily lives. Through his many meetings and public speeches, he noted his goals and hopes, which are critical for the future of the U.S. church.
Tying further into the Middle East was the Pope’s visit to ground zero. He preached of the importance of getting rid of the dark shadow cast by 9/11 and looking beyond it for the good of all of humanity. The main goal of this speech was to “restore brotherhood” among not only all Christians, but every person in the world. He surely sees the importance of friendly global relationships, especially in this day in age with nuclear threats and other horrifying things, that are so close to being a reality.
The Pope’s visit to the U.S. and Lebanon has shown how similar the two countries are. The U.S. and the Middle East both contain rich mixtures of religious, ethical, and cultural differences. Preaching the importance of understanding and embracing these differences was another top priority of the Pope’s visit to America and his future visit to Lebanon.
Pope Benedict knows how important his trip to Lebanon will be on influencing peace throughout the Middle East. He has shown apathy towards the people of the region by recognizing the pain they face daily as their lives have been torn apart due to war. He has definitely showed concern and it is likely that his visit will be aimed at influencing peace and teaching the importance of continued dialogue. Due to the recent exodus of Christians throughout the Middle East, it is probable that the Pope wants to help maintain Christianity throughout the region. Since Lebanon contains the most Christians within the Middle East, there is no better place to start then there.