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Can a dying language revive Lebanon's Christian population?

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With the end of the civil war in 1990 and a reconfiguration of the Lebanese political system, an agreement made the prime minister's office, traditionally held by a Sunni, more powerful than the presidential office, typically held by a Maronite – a flip of the previous arrangement. The agreement also reconfigured parliamentary representation, from six Christians for every five Muslims to a 50-50 arrangement. 

The Maronites also fear that the rise of regional Islamic movements will bring discrimination and persecution – fears shared by Christians elsewhere in the region, like the Copts in Egypt and the Assyrians in Iraq – despite Lebanon's long tradition of freedom of religion.

Language of the land

Some Maronites believe that the best way to slow or end the slide into decline is to bring back Syriac, the ancient language of prayer for Christians across the Levant. The Maronite Church traces it heritage back to the 4th century and Maronites mostly spoke Aramaic in daily life up until the 13th century. 

Haytham Chaer is the president of Bnay Qyomo ("Sons of the Resurrection"), a non-governmental organization working to revive the "language of Christ" in the Lebanese Maronite community. Doing so, he believes, will strengthen their identity.

“In Lebanon we say ‘The Lebanese land shouts in Syriac',” says Mr. Chaer.

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