With the Islamist group Hezbollah having brought Lebanese politics to a standstill, the country’s once-dominant Christian community feels under siege and has begun re-establishing militias, training in the hills and stockpiling weapons.
Many Lebanese say another civil war ”” like the 15-year one that started in 1975 ”” is imminent and that the most dangerous flash points are within the divided Christian community.
Christian youth are signing up for militant factions in the greatest numbers since the end of the civil war, spray painting nationalist symbols on walls and tattooing them on their skin, and proclaiming their willingness to fight in a new civil war ”” in particular, against fellow Christians.
“When the war begins, I’ll be the first one in it,” said Fadil Abbas, 30, flexing his biceps in Shadow Tattoo as an artist etched a cross onto his shoulder. “I want everyone to know I am a Christian and I am ready to fight.”
The struggle is over who gets to be the next president, a post reserved for a Christian under Lebanon’s Constitution, and which must be filled by the end of November. But the larger question ”” one that is prompting rival Christian factions to threaten war ”” is whether Lebanese Christians must accept their minority status and get along with the Muslim majority (the choice of the popular Gen. Michel Aoun) or whether Christians should insist on special privileges no matter what their share of the population (the position of veteran civil war factions like the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces).