“God, family, country”: Expounding Federalism
By Hanna Samir Kassab
Christian political force has dramatically weakened since the end of the civil war. The attempted banning of Christmas and Easter and the increased undeveloped and immature discussion on Secularism attests to this. Sami Gemayel argues that the only way for Christians to continue to hold on to their identity is to have their own distinct province. Many Lebanese do not feel comfortable with this idea but, I am willing to explore these ideas. By focusing on the history of Lebanon, I will try to theorize the feasibility of Lebanese Federalism, by focusing on the structure of Canadian Federalism. In my opinion, it does not conflict with the slogan of the Kataeb party “God, Family, Country”. It is a middle way between Secularism and the Sectarianism. By looking at Canadian Federalism we can imagine alternatives to the current political structure and further defend the rights of Lebanese Christians to maintain their unique identity.
Lebanon was created by the French to give the Christians the right to self-determination, a right denied to them for centuries. This was welcomed by many Christians, but rejected by many Muslims. Relations with Muslims were defined by two Maronite politicians at the time, Emile Edde and Bishara al-Khoury. Edde preferred to have a fully Maronite state (instead of one with a small and fragile Maronite majority) in the geographical area of Mount Lebanon with direct links with Western powers. On the other hand al-Khoury preferred the larger Lebanon in existence today, with the Bekaa valley, the South, Tripoli and its surrounding areas, Beirut and Mount Lebanon, sharing power equally with Muslims. However, it was Edde who decided to embrace al-Khoury’s ideas and enacted them during his time as French Mandate Lebanon’s president in 1936.
One reason al-Khoury’s vision won against Edde is because many worried that the small area of Mt. Lebanon would not be economically self-sufficient. Today, the economic environment is dramatically different. In the past, countries needed to be economically self-sufficient to feed and clothe the people. The economic structure of Lebanon is radically different. Lebanon now relies on tourism for wealth. Thus, if Mt. Lebanon were to even declare its independence and break off as a separate country, it would be able survive. It would not be the Switzerland of the Middle East; it would be more like Luxemburg.
Nevertheless, what would Lebanese Federalism look like? Today, in Canada there are three layers of government: Federal, Provincial and Municipal. Jurisdictions are clearly outlined by the Constitution, which defends human rights and freedoms: freedom of religion, speech and so on. Through this system, Canadians and their many distinct people (for example, the English and French Canadians) are protected as citizens are members of a Provincial as well as a Federal jurisdiction. Provinces are given a large amount of independence, protected and separated from the influence of other Provinces and the overarching Federal authority. Thus, identities are preserved through this system of governance: we have the equation “God, Family, Country” through this structure. Christians would have self-determination, but not be cut off from their Lebanese Muslim brethren. Everyone would maintain their identity and live in peace and respect.
There is of course, a very important concern. There are many Christians living outside the Mt. Lebanon region. What will happen to them? In the Canadian system, each Province has the liberty to create and follow their own laws, as long as they do not clash with the overarching Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thus, in Zahle for example, the Bekaa province would not be allowed to create laws that infringe the inherent rights and freedoms of the Christians in this region.
Therefore, if the position of Christians should continues on the path its on, Federalism should be pursued, but only then. I look forward to further discussion of this subject. Lebanon is changing and we must change with it. We have to find other, more creative ways to protect Lebanese identity. We can never again pick up the sword to defend and preserve our beliefs for future generations. When it comes to the lives of our family, we should not be tied to our 10452km homeland; we have to cut our losses so to speak. We are called upon to be defenders of our religion, guardians of our history and protectors of our people. If the Christian way of life continues to be threatened, then Federalism must be tried.