Ending the 9-11 'Logic'

Andrea Riccardi Analyzes the Situation in the Middle East

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By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, APRIL 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “It’s necessary to put aside the idea that Muslims want to set fire to and destroy everything,” said the Italian Minister of Cooperation, Andrea Riccardi, at a conference on the Arab Spring held Monday in Italy at the Foreign Press Association.

The logic of September 11 has led to wars and support of authoritarian regimes as the alternative to theocratic or radical governments, he said.

Riccardi, who is also the founder of the Catholic lay Community of Sant’Egidio, recalled that  Lebanon had a democracy long before the Arab Spring, and mentioned its present difficulty and how the situation in Syria weighs on the countries of the region. He also mentioned the importance of the Christian minorities – not only in the Lebanon – as a primary element of democratic pluralism.

“2011 was the year of change for the south of the Mediterranean,” said the minister.

It is necessary to take democracy to the Arab world through alternative ways than support of authoritarian regimes to which no alternative was envisioned except chaos, theocracy and radical Islamism, Riccardi said.

“With reference to religious liberty, the exodus of Christians is a very sad fact which has always gone on and which was accelerated with the crisis. The departure of the Copts, for example, is an event that concerns us very much in this connection.” To this end, he added, the “strength and resistance of the Lebanon is important for Christians who are a guarantee of pluralism.”

Lebanon: Democracy before the Arab Spring

In regard to his visit to Lebanon, Riccardi noted that the country “hosts 400,000 Palestinian refugees and, therefore, many times was at the center of the crises taking place.

Riccardi added that he perceived that the Syrian situation will strongly influence the Lebanese scene, given that “the coalition in power today is essentially concerned about the crisis of Assad’s regime.”

“All the religious authorities I met, that is, the Maronite patriarch with his particular role, all the religious leaders of different hues, expressed to me their concern about the end of Assad’s regime, fearing for Syria an Iraqi type scenario and a consequent crisis for Christians. I must say that not all Christians think this way and consider this option imprudent and mistaken, because it means joining a world that is ending,” he added.

Why do Christians have this attitude?, Riccardi asked, answering “Because they fear a democracy of the majority, of Islamists, a democracy that will reduce the role they have.” The minister also recalled that “thanks to its democracy Lebanon gives more guarantees to the liberty of Christians” because it is “a process of advanced democracy.”

The Syrian emergency is “a complex situation in which the regime of minorities – this is how he described Assad’s regime – is shaken by the upheaval, the reason why he hoped that the plan of Kofi Annan, the mediator of the UN and of the Arab League in Syria, “is implemented in a profound and radical way.”

The Political Future of Islamism

On the political future of Islamism, Riccardi stressed that “it is necessary to take into account each different reality,” as all outcomes are possible, taking into account “the challenge of Egypt’s elections and the transition of the Assad regime.”

“Personally, I’m convinced that the presence of the Christian minorities is a primary element of democratic pluralism. Syria is a mosaic of minorities, but also Egypt, less so Tunisia.

In regard to the Tunisian case, the Italian Minister said that “perhaps it is the most significant democratic process and the one which offers more guarantees, as, we must not forget, it is not just about political events or the guarantees that Islamists can give, but about an incredible economic situation with 800,000 unemployed.”

In regard to the situation in the Sahel, Niger, Burkina Faso and Guinea Conakry, Riccardi said that “it is necessary to support the countries in this region that have a democratic and balanced policy, a secular policy.” He is convinced that a relationship is necessary with the governments but also with political parties and religious authorities.

In conclusion, the Minister said that the most coherent policy is the one that adheres to the terrain of the different countries, which makes possible “an appropriate reading of the complexity.”

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