Mireille is from Lebanon, a country that can be an example of coexistence for the whole area.
In the Middle East, Lebanon is the country that hosts the most Syrian refugees, a million and a half. Unfortunately, history seems to repeat itself there every few years. After World War I, they welcomed thousands of Armenians who escaped the genocide. When World War II finished, they invited Palestinian refugees and in recent decades, Iraqis and Syrians. Additionally, they endured a civil war for 16 years on their own soil.
“Lebanon has been a country of refuge from the beginning because it is a country that was created and conceived through the reception of other peoples.”
Lebanon also has a distinctiveness that makes this mixture of peoples and creeds work in a stable way. It is a system that can serve as an example to other countries in the region that somehow guarantees that Christians are not treated as second class citizens.
“I think Lebanon can be an example, maybe even a role model. Both Muslims and Christians are represented in Parliament and in the government. There are Christian deputies and Muslim deputies. There are Christian political ministers and Muslim political ministers.”
Mireille grew up in this democracy and she is now a Maronite Christian who now studies in Rome. She explained that, given the multiple conflicts that affect the region, it is more important than ever to strengthen minorities.
“If the other countries in this zone leave a little bit of space for these minorities, perhaps these Christians will stay because they are valuable; they are the most peaceful part.”
Christians are especially needed in a region where persecution against them has intensified because of jihadism. However, there is something that makes them stay there, despite being in the spotlight.
“Christ came from there, from the Middle East, therefore we can say that we are the original Christians. I am proud to be a Christian in the Middle East. I am Arabic, yes. I speak in Arabic, but it does not mean that it is Arabic like those of Saudi Arabia. Arabic does not mean Muslim.”
According to the Gospel, Christ himself worked a miracle in the region of Tire and Sidon, south of present-day Lebanon, and Sts. Peter and Paul also preached in those lands where the Christian presence is as old as Christianity itself.