Beirut is called the Paris of the Mideast because of its charm and beauty.
Our special report on Lebanon in this week’s print issue and our expanded website coverage, with more photos, offers a look at this stunningly beautiful country. A Sentinel staffer spent a week in this Paris of the Mideast, talking to a wide range of people, from Christian patriarchs to wait staffers and Oriental rug salespeople.
He came away highly impressed with what he experienced.
Lebanon is the only Mideast nation where the Christian community has a big say in governance. In fact, Maronite Catholics have been operating most of the levers of government power for decades.
A power-sharing agreement provides for governance among the Christians, Sunnis and Shi’as. The system has worked for decades. Lebanon has been held up as an example of peaceful co-existence among diverse religious groups.
But the Christians’ declining numbers are presenting new challenges. Shi’a Muslims throughout the region are demanding an equal voice after centuries of oppression by their Sunni cousins.
The violence of the past several decades suggests the coexistence model is fraying. The roadside bomb attack last week on UN peacekeepers is a worrisome development.
Heaven knows what the future holds for these indefatigable people. Is it possible that most everyone is finally overdosed on violence as a way to solve problems? One can hope.
Even if their leaders call for renewed sectarian fighting, will the footsoldiers rally to the barricades? No one remains who has any fight left, we are told. That is to the good.
Hopeful signs of happier times ahead are emerging throughout the region during the Arab Spring. Lebanon can help show its neighbors the way.