Resurrection from Babel: The Cultural, Political, and Legal Status of Christian Communities in Lebanon and Syria and Their Prospects for the Future
Alexandra R. Harrington
Global Institute for Health and Human Rights; Albany Law School
Tulsa Journal of Comparative & International Law, Vol. 13, p. 217, 2006
In the well-known Biblical story, the faithful, attempting to create a place of unity for themselves, set about building the Tower of Babel, only to see the Tower implode due to linguistic differences and power assertions. Thousands of years later, the world is still plagued by sectarian strife and warfare. Indeed, the situation has only become more involved since Babel, as there are now inter-communal and intra-communal conflicts for supremacy and superiority - a notable difference in these conflicts is that the ultimate tool of getting to Heaven is no longer a tower, it is now a state. Within the framework of the much-vaunted and highly-contested state structure which sits at the heart of inter-communal and intra-communal conflicts lies a duality of politics and law. A state cannot exist without political actors, whatever their motivations may be, and political actors of all belief systems have embraced the need for laws as a method of control - if not equality and a means of assuring an open society.
For Christian communities in the Middle East there is perhaps no greater a living symbol of the effects of Babel-esque intra-communal fighting than Lebanon. The fighting between Christian communities in Lebanon, and the alliances of these communities with various Muslim communities and other nations to try to crush rival Christian opposition, is more than just a memory of decades past; it continues today, albeit in slightly less violent forms than during the civil war which ravaged the country for over a decade. By contrast, the political and legal standing of Christian communities across the border in Syria is nowhere near as visible, or publicized, as their Lebanese co-religionists.
This article examines the role of Christian communities in Lebanese and Syrian history and law, and, conversely, the role of constitutional and statutory law on Christian communities in Lebanon and Syria. With these laws and relationships established, the article then goes on to call for a resurgence of unity between the Christian communities in Lebanon, and an awakening of the Christian communities in Syria, as a means to solve the political and societal unrest in both countries. The author argues that the law allowing this type of participation has already been established, and now is waiting for the people to use it as a weapon against terrorism and injustice. By using existing laws, particularly constitutional laws, to change their respective countries, the Christian communities in Lebanon and Syria would be able to help not only themselves, but also the Muslim communities and other religious minority communities in Lebanon and Syria.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
JEL Classification: K33
Date posted: November 12, 2008 ; Last revised: November 17, 2008