Maronite Catholics: “Let Hezbollah go to Iran or Syria”

.- Although the conflict in Lebanon has ended, peace has yet returned for the inhabitants of a mostly Maronite Catholic town who fear Hezbollah will turn their country into an Islamic nation.

Christians, mostly Maronite Catholics, now make up only 40% of the population of Lebanon.  The middle-eastern country once boasted a majority Christian population, but is now being increasingly populated by Muslims, including Shiites who are represented, in large part by, militant group Hezbollah.

A reporter working for the Mexican daily “El Universal” published a story last week, focusing on the shifting circumstances in Rmaich, a Maronite town of 8,000 inhabitants located two kilometers from the Israeli border.  The town was not destroyed during the recent conflict between Hezbollah and neighboring Israel, but residents still live in constant fear.

Residents say Hezbollah is not welcome in Lebanon and that their goals are not shared by most Lebanese.

“Let them go to Iran or Syria. They are not Lebanese and they are destroying our country,” said one man identified as Elias Sumani about Hezbollah.  His family had to live two months without gas and water due to the conflict that began on July 12.

According to the story, Rmaich “was an enclave where more than 30,000 displaced Shiites found refuge in homes and schools during the conflict, which forced them to live in almost precarious conditions.”

“Like good Christians we took in those who were in need.  The inhabitants of Aaita ech Chaab (controlled by Hezbollah) took refuge here and families gave them assistance,” a local resident said.

“We act this way, but in reality we fear them,” Sumani explained.  “The Shiites are dangerous.  If they want an Islamic nation, let it not be in Lebanon.  If you listen to them you see they are not Lebanese.  We need to be clear about this,” he said.

Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch has denounced Hezbollah as “a state within a state, supported by Iran.  After the war this is something we will not accept.”

Archbishop Chucrallah-Nabil El-Hage of Tyre said, “The most important thing is to stay in this land” despite other daily problems, such as unemployment, that Christians face amidst a Muslim majority.

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