Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 27 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Simeon Sylites
home iconNews
line break icon

Some Christians Arm as Mideast Perils Mount

AP

Aleteia - published on 09/05/14 - updated on 06/08/17

"We all know that if they come, they will slit our throats for no reason," says a Lebanese militiaman.

QAA, Lebanon (AP) — Every day around sunset, dozens of residents of this small Lebanese Christian village on the border carry their automatic rifles and deploy on surrounding hills, taking up positions and laying ambushes in case Muslim extremists from neighboring Syria attack.

"We all know that if they come, they will slit our throats for no reason," said one villager as he drove through the streets of Qaa, an assault rifle resting next to him. For months, Lebanese Christians have watched with dread as other Christians flee Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, fearing their turn will come next. Fears multiplied after militants from Syria overran a border town last month, clashing with security forces for days and killing and kidnapping Lebanese soldiers and policemen.

Now, for the first time since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, Lebanese Christians are rearming and setting up self-defense units to protect themselves, an indication of the growing anxiety over the expanding reach of radical Islamic groups. Across the Middle East, Christian communities as old as the religion itself feel their very survival is now at stake, threatened by militants of the Islamic State group rampaging across Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, thousands of Christians have fled their homes after they were made to choose between leaving, converting to Islam or facing death. For the first time in centuries, Iraq’s Ninevah region and the provincial capital of Mosul have been emptied of Christians.

After they left, the militants spray-painted their houses with the letter "N” for "Nasrani" — an archaic term used to refer to Christians — marking the homes as Islamic State property.

In Syria, thousands of Christians have been displaced during its three-year conflict. Christian towns and villages have come under attack by jihadists, most recently the historic central town of Mahradeh. Islamic fighters in Syria rampaged through the ancient Christian town of Maaloula near Damascus earlier this year, destroying historic churches and icons. Christians in the militant stronghold of Raqqa were forced to pay an Islamic tax for protection.

Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria are now sheltering in Lebanon, sensing safety in a pluralistic country which has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. Lebanon is also the only Arab country with a Christian head of state.

But the fear has spread to Lebanon as well. This week, after a video was posted online showing a group of boys burning an Islamic State flag in a Christian neighborhood of Beirut, vandals spray-painted the outer walls of several churches in northern Lebanon with the words: "The Islamic State is coming."

In Qaa and Ras Baalbek, two Christian villages in the northeast, on the border with Syria, the anxiety is palpable. Many of the thousands of expatriates who used to spend the summer here stayed away this year. Restaurants and the villages’ main squares were deserted on a recent day. The sale of weapons on the black market has climbed sharply. The arming effort is backed by some leftist and communist Lebanese militias who have long had weapons. The Shiite armed group Hezbollah has also indirectly supported such efforts, seeing the communities as a first line of defense for Shiite towns and villages in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region.

Sitting in his house few miles away from areas controlled by jihadi fighters in Syria, Suleiman Semaan, a political activist in Ras Baalbek, said the mobilization in the village was purely for self-defense. He and other residents said they were especially alarmed by an attack last month in which militants from Syria overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal for several days, killing and abducting a number of soldiers and police.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastIraqIslamist MilitantsLebanonSyria
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
morning
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
2
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
3
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
4
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
5
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
6
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
7
BABCIA Z WNUKAMI
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.