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French Version

Lebanese determined to resist confessional strife (Daily Star)

Beirut Christians say bombings will not shake their resolve

Nabil Hanna surveyed the smoldering buildings on Easter Sunday, gutted by the latest bomb to target Lebanon's Christian heartland, but said those responsible would not drag the country back into civil war.

"There can't be another sectarian or nonsectarian war in Lebanon. No matter how stupid the Lebanese are, they have learned from the war that we had in the past," said Hanna, a Maronite Christian whose flat was rocked by the blast on Easter eve.

Many Beirut Christians, celebrating the day they believe Jesus rose from the dead, echoed Hanna's views, saying there could be no return to the ruinous 1975-90 civil war that pitted Christians, Muslims and Druze against each other.

Three bomb blasts in the past week in Christian areas around Beirut have failed to shake a determination among Lebanese to stand up to those who may be out to foment communal discord in the country.

"It won't be the action of a bunch of thugs that will cause disunity among Lebanese and spark inter-confessional conflict," insisted Claude Sayegh, an interior decorator a day after the explosion in an industrial area north of Beirut injured six people.

"That may be the intention of I don't know who but it's not going to work because we have chosen to stand together in Lebanon," he said

According to shop owner Camille Baladi the days of faith-based hostilities are over.

"We don't think any more simply in terms of religion," he said. "I go hunting and diving and I play poker with my Muslim friends and that is not going to change."

Baladi noted that for the moment the perpetrators do not appear to be intent on causing massive casualties. The blasts have caused three deaths and left about 25 injured.

"They could have targeted churches on Easter eve. Their aim is to plant fear, but whatever they do it won't change anything because we have entered a new era."

For political analyst Ghassan Ezze, "the fact that both the opposition and the pro-Syrian camp are made up of Muslims and Christians prevents this form of (religious) fracture."

But those opposed to Syria's presence fear more insecurity is the price they will pay for ridding Lebanon of the influence of Syria, which many blame for the February 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and three subsequent bombings in Christian areas. Syria denies any role.

"It's obvious who is behind it. It's the Syrians. It will probably stop when the Syrians leave, but it may continue because their security will stay," said Mario Mrad, who lives in Sad al-Boushrieh, a Beirut suburb, where the bomb on Easter eve destroyed workshops and other buildings.

But the 22-year-old Chaldean Christian added: "The people here have had enough. They have learned there will be no war."

Lebanon has been steadily recovering from the 15-year conflict that almost tore the country apart, but Hariri's death has exposed deep divides between pro- and anti-Syrian camps.

But many Maronite Christians, for example, oppose Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, himself a Maronite who holds the position in line with a postwar deal to distribute Lebanon's top jobs between the country's main religious groups.

"We don't want him. He represents himself only. He doesn't represent us. He just carries the title president," Hayat Khoury, a 40-year-old Maronite Christian, said as she crouched in front of a bomb-damaged shop front in Sad al-Boushrieh.

"Those who did this are trying to destroy our economy," said Elie Abdel-Nour, an Orthodox Christian, who missed a traditional late night church service because of the Saturday's blast that wrecked some of his property.

"But if they destroy things, we will rebuild it and better than it was," said Abdel-Nour, wearing a badge with a Hariri picture on his lapel.

Beirut,03 29 2005
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