Here are some key quotes from a Christianity Today interview with “Beirut-based journalist Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian Christian. … An American citizen, he is editor-at-large of The Daily Star, the largest English-language newspaper in the Middle East. He is also director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.”
American Christians could look at Christian Palestinians or Christian Arabs as a potential window into the minds of millions of Muslim Arabs. You would find that what Christian Arabs are feeling is very similar to what Muslim Arabs are feeling. So the real issues at play, in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, are not religious but political. People may call on their religious vocabulary and metaphors and iconography, but we should look beyond the surface manifestations of those religious symbols to the political realities.
I’d add some nuance to the somewhat categorical assertion that the “real issues” are “not religious but political”–at least some of the real issues are religious. But I will take every opportunity I can to relay the views of Middle Eastern Christians to their brothers and sisters in the U.S.
Khouri also makes some interesting observations on the role of the church–and all religious leaders–in resolving political conflicts:
Sometimes, it’s not just about getting the ear of politicians. Sometimes, the church needs to shame politicians. Go over their heads. The vast majority of people in the Middle East want the same thing. But the politicians are the problem in many ways. So it would be good if various religious leaderships together explored a way to make the moral values of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism more pertinent to the resolution of political conflict. Political leaders need to affirm the relevance of moral and faith values and somehow get them to underpin the political process and negotiations. One way to do that is to get these religious leaders together to explicitly talk about political issues.
This was exactly the goal of Sojourners’ participation in efforts to prevent war with Iran.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.