I was one of the first to reject the “Orthodox gathering” because it deprives the Lebanese of the chance to interact with each other and does not allow mixed electoral lists. It also tightens the grip on seculars and non-sectarian parties and gives the sectarian-oriented and the more extremist easier access to the parliament.
I was surprised when the Bkerké Committee agreed to support the project despite secular proposals and temporary sectarian alliances. I do, however, understand that Christians are worried about their destiny with the Arab world heading towards Islamization and with the regular decline in the number. This might force them into accepting options that are not in line with their past, their ideologies, or their religion.
At the same time, I believe that Muslims are responsible for abating the fears of Christians if they really want to preserve the diversity for which Lebanon has always been distinguished. This is not an attempt to gain the sympathy of Muslims, but an affirmation that they would have never been what they are now had it not been for the cultural diversity offered by Christians not only in Lebanon, but in the entire Arab world.
Lebanese Muslims are not to gloat over the condition of Christians as they struggle to reach an agreement, but rather help them to overcome their apprehensions about the future.
The Lebanese constitution stresses the necessity of coexistence, a principle adopted by all Lebanese political and religious factions. Those need to sit at the negotiating table, whether in Baabda or in the subsidiary parliamentary committee, and think about means to preserve the balance in Lebanon so that Muslims do not go on dividing Christian shares and Christians are not once more dragged to the “security of the Christian community above all” theory without confining people to their sects, as is the case with the Orthodox gathering, and without compromising any party’s rights.
Muslims do not have to threaten to divide electoral shares into three parts—Sunni, Shiite, and Christian—as they did in the past few days, even if indirectly, when they saw that Christians might reach an agreement. This tarnishes the images of Muslims and questions their desire to grant Christians their full right of participation. Coexistence happens through political discussion about the constitution and not through threats and intimidation.
*This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on Jan. 14, 2013. Link: http://newspaper.annahar.com/article.php?t=makalat&p=3&d=24962
Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni