Pope's presence in Lebanon a way of defending Christian enclaves that face dangerous times
On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon for a three-day visit to advocate coexistence and to reassure Christian communities that have grown increasingly nervous amid growing religious hostilities and an upsurge of Islamic extremism in the region.
Columnist Rozeanna Abu Moncef wrote in the Lebanese newspaper Annahar that "Pope Benedict XVI's statements about religious freedom, immigration, rejection of violence and extremism were as important as the contents of his apostolic exhortation for the Christians of the Middle East."
Talking to the press, the pontiff expressed the Catholic Church's esteem for the Arab Spring, which he described as a cry for freedom from advanced youth expressing their desire for a bigger political role.
The visit was hailed by most religious and civil leaders in Lebanon as historic and exceptional.
The pope's call to Christians of the region not to fear and to remain in their countries of origin came as an update to the Church's principles based on recent world developments, the columnist said.
"It was no easy task for pope Benedict XVI to carry the weight of his 85 years to Lebanon for three days to reassure his church's followers and indeed of the regions' Christians … at this pivotal, historic and delicate phase in the history of the Middle East," the writer added.
The present situation of oriental Christian communities compels the Vatican to assume the difficult task of preserving the remaining enclaves of its followers who find themselves dealing with growing dangers.
In occupied Palestine and Iraq, the very existence of Christian communities is in peril. The same applies to the Christians of Syria, who are weighed down by moral and practical pressures.
All this is occurring at a time when European secular nations can no longer actively intervene to preserve or reinforce particular religious groups or sects, either out of fear of stoking religious extremism or in the aim of protecting their own national interests with Islamic nations.
The pope's visit to the Middle East raises many questions. Will Lebanese Christians be able to implement the directives and the messages of the visit? Will the Christians of the region heed the pontiff's call to hold on to their ancestral birthplace? Or will they succumb to the attempts to scare them away? In particular, how will the Christians of Syria, one of the main countries addressed in the apostolic exhortation, receive the message?
But the most crucial question to be asked now that the pontifical trip to the Middle East is over is how will Islamic governments react to the Vatican's message? Will the rare confessional and religious coexistence that was exhibited in Lebanon during this event find its way to surrounding countries?
Anger over film must not lead us to violence
The anti-Islam film that has recently emerged on YouTube and led to riots in several countries was intended to hurt - and it did, but Muslims must be wary of entrenching the cheap stereotype that they are fans of violence, suggested Sami Al Reyyami, editor of the UAE newspaper Al Emarat Al Youm, in his column yesterday.
"Prophet Mohammed is much bigger and greater than a low-budget film," the editor wrote.
"Yet many Muslims have helped this film gain a lot of exposure. Unwillingly, they have actually spared its makers the effort to promote it."
The violent backlash over the film made it most-viewed item on YouTube, even though it is a poorly directed, low-quality junk, the editor noted.
No movie theatre in the world will take it - not necessarily for the love of Islam, but simply because it is a far cry from screening material.
"They have succeeded in provoking us and in reinforcing the image of Muslims as violent, as people who are fond of fighting and murder - and that is precisely what the world gets to see right now," Al Reyyami said.
Jus take a cue from Prophet Mohammed himself, he advised. The Prophet was more than once physically and verbally assaulted when he first started spreading the message of Islam. Violence is the last thing he would have resorted to.
Easy case against film lost by mishandling
Now that the dust of battle has settled, it is time to calmly calculate the gains and losses of the forays against US embassies in several Arab capitals, wrote Wael Kandil in the Cairo-based Al Shorouk.
No doubt, the anti-Islam movie was base and despicable both in form and content, and deserved a demonstration of anger. But the question is "have we passed the anger test?"
"Our performance was akin to a failed lawyer working on an easy- win case," he said. "The result is that we have not won the case."
This is because "we have not carefully studied the case before embarking on a defence, and so we have committed multiple silly mistakes that hurt our case, as just and rightful as it is".
"We have given our foes the chance to deviate from the main issue towards sideshows we have created with our mishandling."
Who cast the spotlight on such a trivial work that only a handful of people went to see? he asked.
"Regrettably enough, it was our people who promoted this ugliness when they broadcast clips of the movie … thus giving it free publicity, that even millions of dollars could not have achieved."
"The Zionist right-wing extremists have gained from this foray, after we have succeeded in presenting the worst image of ourselves to the world."
* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk