Former President of Lebanon: “Start Thinking the Unthinkable”

Middle East Christians face “the Specter of Genocide” on eve of UN Security Council deliberations

BOSTON, March 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “I have never in my life witnessed Middle East Christians in such extreme danger,” Amine Gemayel warned on Wednesday. Speaking at a public lecture at Boston College, the former president of Lebanoncalled 2014 “a year of existential crisis” for Middle East Christians. He raised “the specter of genocide,” in the context of atrocities suffered by Christians and other religious minorities in the region at the hands of the Islamic State and other extremists.

“If present negative trends continue to intensify,” Gemayel said, “we must start thinking about the unthinkable: the extinction of Christianity” in the region. In addition to an enormous human toll, the former president claimed that the end of Middle East Christianity would “destabilize the region for generations.”

Compounding the crisis, Gemayel said, is the “inexplicable” lack of attention the issue receives from the international community. In particular, he said, “the response by the United States has been a resounding non-response.” Gemayel noted Washington’s failure last summer to use airstrikes to halt the Islamic State’s mass religious cleansing of Iraqi Christians and Yezidis while using these means to defend other interests, such as oil installations.

While acknowledging that the U.S. is “constantly buffeted by demands” for proactive policies, Gemayel pointed out that the U.S. not only has “the military means to do more,” but is politically positioned to act due to lead its “strong relationships with regional governments.”

Specifically, Gemayel encouraged Washington to support the Vatican’s proposal for “a UN-backed military force, with Muslim participation, to stop religious cleansing in the Middle East,” and the establishment of internationally-guaranteed “in-country safe havens.” He furthermore appealed to the United States to intensify its support for Lebanon in its fight against the Islamic State and in its care for Syrian refugees.  Ultimately, he asserted, an “Arab Marshall Plan” would be needed to reconstruct Arab countries and encourage Arab youth to “embrace democratic ideas as a prelude to the establishment of democratic systems.” Gemayel also stressed the need for responsible Muslim leadership to turn their expressions of sympathy with persecuted Christians into “a comprehensive plan of action.”

Gemayel’s talk was cosponsored by Christian Solidarity International and Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages and Literatures, Department of Political Science, and Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. This Friday, March 27, the UN Security Council will be addressing the existential threat to Middle East minorities raised by President Gemayel.