Few would disagree that the Sunni – Shia rivalry is destructive to the entire Middle East region. Unfortunately Lebanon has been the battle ground of this rivalry among the many sectarian conflicts plaguing the region. This is truly a sad story of a beautiful country/wonderful people that could be a beacon of hope in a region mired in extremism/intolerance – a country with great traditions in entrepreneurship and where tolerance/openness is the norm. Their main problem is weak governance & military which in a region like the Middle East can be a recipe for disaster. Former President Sadat of Egypt famously urged; “hands off Lebanon” where he envisaged the destructive effects of foreign interference by regional powers on the country. The starting point surely has to be addressing this religious rivalry between these 2 Islamic sects. These are complex issues that have been festering for decades and have become convoluted/interconnected creating sociopolitical realities across the region. It follows that untangling these conflicting issues/interests cannot be achieved all at once as it requires confidence building that will take years to achieve. But it is necessary to start this healing process now and begin chipping away at the different layers that are the source of this rivalry. It requires leadership and determination with western support not interference, particularly that Israel needs to be part of this process for it to an effective/meaningful one.

My sincere hope is that one day the leaders in the region begin focusing on building/collaborating rather than fighting/destroying because this is the only win-win proposition. It all begins by taking sectarianism and xenophobia out of the equation replacing them with development and an evolving mechanism for democratic governance. It truly is achievable with the right mindset/approach – nothing is irreversible.

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