Lebanon: A Glimmer of Hope in Painful Memory

  • 14 April 2009

The 33rd anniversary of the Lebanese “civil war” (which began in 1975) was observed yesterday, even as the country remains in the debilitating grip of a political crisis that has defied all attempts at a resolution, and is showing little hope of a peaceful settlement that could avert a possible explosive outcome. Undoubtedly, this dubious anniversary would remind feuding Lebanese parties of the destruction that has held Lebanon back by many years, and which ultimately left all sides defeated. The occasion would have underscored the importance of co-existence, in that co-existence is the only guarantor of a promising future for this pluralistic country, and that internal accord among the Lebanese could serve as a bulwark against any foreign influence. However, reminiscing would not be sufficient in itself, as lessons would have to be learnt and serious steps taken to end the deadlocked political crisis that threatens imminent disaster, if things are allowed to slide. The first lesson the anniversary could teach is that a single spark is all it takes to ignite a civil war, and the resultant fire could destroy all. Once started, this fire would be difficult to contain or extinguish. The festering of differences and tensions would eventually lead to an explosive situation, despite repeated affirmations by all political forces that the red line demarcating the civil war will not be breached. They would have to understand that “civil wars” do not usually erupt as a result of a deliberate move, but break out suddenly as a result of accumulated pressure of events.

This year, Lebanese people marked the anniversary of the civil war with the slogan “Our unity is our salvation.” The event was organized by the collective effort of 55 civic societies, and initiated at the behest of the Lebanese media. The campaign initiated a mass-contact program that cut across all political denominations. The move showed that forces of unity were still strong within Lebanese society, despite the presence of elements of dissension, conflict and dispute. The message sent out by the Lebanese through their media and civil society should encourage political leadership to reach an understanding and end the state of crisis that is paralyzing the country. The political stalemate has placed Lebanon in a difficult situation at the political, security and economical levels.

Nations and people always remember momentous occasions in their history, be they positive or negative, in order to review and benefit from such experiences in dealing with challenges of the present and the future. Lebanon has never been more in need of reviewing its 'civil war'. Despite all the pain this reminiscing may evoke, the mass campaign for unity shows that a ray of hope could emerge from this exercise that must be protected and fostered, as it signifies that Lebanese do not want the despicable history of the “civil war” repeat itself.