'Muslims and Christians are not divided like before'
By Kenneth Changpertitum ("The Daily Star," April 14, 2008)
Beirut, Lebanon - On the anniversary of the 1975-1990 Civil War, The Daily Star visited Beirut's corniche to ask Lebanese citizens whether they thought a renewal of conflict was likely.
Even though the political situation in Lebanon is somewhat tense, most of the people interviewed expressed doubts that a civil war would reoccur. Almost everyone said they believed that ordinary Lebanese people had no interest repeating another internal conflict.
"There wont' be a civil war, because the Lebanese took a lesson from the first war and we know it did not have a good effect on our families," said Johnny Asmar.
Khodor Iskandrani said he doubted a civil war would break out again because relations among people of different religions are much different today than they were before the Civil War. "Before there was a civil war between Muslims and Christians, but now Muslims and Christians are friends and brothers. Muslims and Christians are not divided like before," he added.
One man, who asked not to be identified, agreed. "Thirty years ago people did not know better, but they know better now. If we fight now, we'll lose everything that we gained in the past few years after the war," he said.
However, he said he doubted that Lebanon's political leaders had benefited from the same history lessons. "Maybe if our leaders change there won't be a civil war for sure," he added.
But Jean Claude Khashan was less optimistic. "People blindly follow their leaders, without questioning their background or that they committed war crimes. The majority of our leaders have committed war crimes. There will be a new civil war because our leaders commit violent acts and we have become the victims of their acts. They put war thinking in Lebanese minds."
Hassan Salim said he believed the situation was in the hands of foreign powers. "A civil war depends on the international situation. The way international politics plays will determine what happens here in Lebanon."
Youssef Mahfouz agreed. "No one here wants war. All the war attitudes come from the outside. Every day you hear how rockets and guns are imported into Lebanon. We only need Leb-anese to control things. We need Lebanon to be independent."
Still, even with the prospects of civil war facing Lebanon, many said if conflict happened, it would not happen for a while.
"A civil war might break out if a regional war between America, Syria, Israel and Iran is to happen," said Sara Rahhal. "The US has enough problems in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Lebanese are sick of war."