By Felix N. Codilla III
One week after arriving from his first official visit to Europe, President Michael Aoun of Lebanon declared that Christians are “no longer in direct danger” in the Middle East, adding that whatever persecution they may be facing is also experienced by Muslims as well.
Dalati Nohra/Handout via ReutersLebanon’s President Michel Aoun (R) meets with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, February 3, 2017.
Aoun told Aleteia in an interview that during his visit to the Vatican, he brought the message to Pope Francis that Lebanon has recovered from recent wars and is now a sophisticated model republic where Christians and Muslims live in harmony, respecting freedom of belief and political balance.
Aoun explained that they have overcome one of the most dangerous phases of their country’s history and that the Lebanese people have left fear behind. Any threats to their security like car bombs, he went on, are isolated compared to the violence during the 1975–1990 civil war.
The Catholic president also described terrorism in the Middle East as a disaster which has nothing to do with the fundamental principles of Islam, the reason why it is failing. Despite its failure, he believes extremism will have a major impact and leave the region in ruins.
On his statement that Christians are “no longer in direct danger,” he expounded that the danger remains in terrorist cells that target everyone including Muslims.
“Everyone has been affected, both mosques and churches have been attacked in Syria,” he said. “Christians are connected to the resistance movement in Syria, they have resisted with the Muslims.”
Aoun also mentioned the plight of Syrian refugees who he said must return home once the situation in their country normalizes. Up to two million Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon, more than a quarter of the country’s 4.5 million people, making it the world’s highest refugee population per capita.