Only cultural resistance can oppose brute force at work in Gaza and Mosul
by Fady Noun
Against brute force we really only have the reaffirmation of what makes us strong, namely our fierce attachment to the happy acceptance, full of life, of others - with its joys and pains - and resistance to all forms of fundamentalism, be it Sunni, Shia or Jewish.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - We cannot really stand up to the brute force that we see in action in Gaza or Mosul, as individuals or sympathetic groups, except with the strength of the spirit, thought, and culture. Asking the West for help serves our cause as much as palliative care does for a dying man. However, we want to live and we have the vitality of a young shoot full of sap that asks only to grow.

The vagaries of history and the plans of the powerful will never defeat the spirit of a nation, as long as it can express itself through culture. The most striking example in the history of Europe is Poland, which was divided at some point between Germany and Russia. Pope John Paul II referred to it in a speech to the UN. "I, [. . .] Bishop of Rome, [. . .] I am the son of a Nation [. . .], which its neighbours have condemned to death several times, but which has survived and remained itself [. . .] but solely by relying on its culture. This culture turned out in the circumstances to be more powerful than all other forces. [. . .] Men of science [. . .] Show yourselves to be more powerful than the most powerful in our modern world!"

For the pontiff, power is legitimate only because of its ability to embody the culture of the nation. At this time of great pain and great suffering, in which we see children targeted by soldiers determined to terrorise a whole nation, as far as its inner energy, its desire for freedom; at this time of great suffering in which we see at work in Iraq and Syria, the letter of religion kill the soul of a people, let us fix our eyes on this postulate about the existence of each nation, namely its culture, what identifies it, its way of being in the world and in history.

That the forces of death are in action in Israel need no further evidence than the word of a senior army officer, who said that the real goal of a military operation is to "sow fear", while all the rhetoric of 'Israeli army has a "defensive" inspiration (Le Monde, 22 July 2014). In fact, has a UN agency not defined what is going a "carnage"?

To know that it is the forces of death that are operating in Iraq, all one needs to know are the words that the people of Mosul. "The Islamic State first of all attacked the city's identity, deprived of most of its minorities and of its spiritual and cultural identity. (...) This really hurts. (...) I have the impression that they have killed the city. The country is finished and the city no longer has any value. It is hard to describe. It is as if they had killed us inside," wrote AFP citing an official in Mosul (quoted in L'Orient-Le Jour, July 28, 2014). "Genocidal purge," said accusingly Mgr Gollnish, head of L'Oeuvre d'Orient, or cultural genocide.

What is especially touching in this confession is the disturbing impression that it is a Lebanese who is speaking, that Lebanon itself has died a little in Mosul, that it has the duty now to defend its honour and memory.

Some have talked about the necessity of a "moral rearmament" with regards to the cultural resistance against the new barbarians. That is not it. We must first go to the source of the values ‚Äč‚Äčthan to the values themselves. The foundation of pluralism, which has made the richness of Mosul and cultural resistance that we must oppose to those who have wiped it out is found in the respect of personal freedom that Christ gives us in the Gospel and that we have been able to transform, in our world, in the good fortune of living together, in a culture of coexistence, an irreplaceable treasure, a "narrow path" that we must courageously defend.

In a far-sighted article that appeared in June 1978 in the journal Al-Massarra, Charles Malek, who at the Week for Missions spoke to candidates for the priesthood, wrote:

"Who knows what awaits us again, who knows what Christ is planning for and is expecting from us, from the Catholic and Orthodox Church - and by Catholic I of course mean the Maronite Church? (...)

"If one lets one's imagination wander, provided that it is strictly controlled by the Holy Spirit, one sees that the whole life of the Church in Lebanon, during the 2000 years of its past, may not be more than a preparation for the historical and global works Christ is going to ask it to do in the near future. (...)

"This Church, rooted in the land of the East, in its languages and customs, adapted to its nature and its temperament, which has held firm in the trials - and what trials - which have maintained its freedom and personality in spite of every kind of adversity - and what adversities; this Catholic and Orthodox Church, do you know the chosen one, the called one, the greatness of what Christ will ask you again to accept? (...)

"Who knows, dear Catholic and Orthodox Church, and I repeat, the Maronite Church is at the centre of Catholicism, if Christ has not preserved and kept you until now for a cause that you have not even dreamt of? Ask him on your knees to lift partially the veil on the secret of your being kept alive, when one would normally believe you were dead, as others have died long ago!"

Against the brute force shown in Gaza and Mosul, we really have no another means to oppose than the reaffirmation of what makes us strong, namely our fierce attachment to the happy acceptance, full of life, of others - with its joys and pains - and resistance to all forms of fundamentalism, be it Sunni, Shia or Jewish.