ISIS is growing in strength, and as Christians flee Syria and Iraq to escape the horror, Lebanese Christians fear that they will not be the only people coming across the border. The writing is on the wall, as one report claim Churches in the north are being graffitied with the words: “The Islamic State is coming.”
Fears in Lebanon multiplied after militants from Syria overran a border town last month, clashing with security forces for days and killing and kidnapping Lebanese soldiers and policemen, according to the Associated Press reporting from Qaa. Nerby Arsal was taken, and the area has become a hotzone.
“We all know that if they come, they will slit our throats for no reason,” said one villager as he drove through the streets in the border town, Qaa, an assault rifle of the ready.
For the first time since the Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, Lebanese Christians are arming themselves for self-defense, deploying on hills surrounding their communities, and laying in ambush in case Muslim extremists head their way. The remnant of the Lebanese resistance is taking up arms again.
ISIS has already taken Arsal, and the Lebanese Army continues to shell the town to try and recover it. The Islamic State is also gaining popularity among Lebanese Sunni groups, according to news from the region.
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In Tripoli, the black flag of ISIS is gaining popularity, as a form of “Sunni Pride”, according to the Daily Star.
The ISIS-affiliated insignia is increasingly appearing outside some shops around Tripoli and is being donned by protesters at Islamist rallies in the city, a potential signal of the radical group’s growing reach and level of support in Lebanon’s second-biggest city. Others, however, insist it is merely a symbol of Sunni unity and pride.
In Iraq, thousands of Christians have fled rather than face the alternative of converting or being killed. The homes of the departed, have been claimed as Islamic State property and marked with the Arabic letter ‘N’ for Nasarani, or Christian.
Meanwhile, thousands of Syrian Christians have been displaced and found there way into Lebanon, but are beginning to feel insecure even in the pluralistic country.
Some leftist and communist groups in Lebanon have supported the rearming of Christians, and black market weapons sales have climbed. Hezbollah, a Shiite group, has indirectly supported the effort.
But there is concern all over Lebanon, that the rearming effort could raise tensions in Lebanon, which is split over the Syrian conflict. During its own 15-year civil war, the right wing Phalange group fought on behalf of Lebanese Christians, but news seems to point to a turning tide of sentiment.
The number of Christians in the Middle East is rapidly declining as jihadist groups target their communities, and many Christians have fled Syria for Europe. Iraq’s Ninevah region and the provincial capital of Mosul has been emptied of the Christian communities that have lived in the area for centuries.
“We are scared,” Umm Milad, a young Iraqi woman said while waiting to collect aid at a Chaldean church in Beirut. She came to Lebanon with her husband and children after someone painted an ‘N’ on their home in Mosul in July. The terrorists gave them 24 hours to leave. “We don’t want to go back. We want to go anywhere else. Canada or America,” she said.