Lebanon Brief – March 2019

A Seed of Change

By Chaden Hani

 

News

On 31 January, after months of negotiations, Prime Minister Saad Hariri was able to form a government. With the confidence of the parliament, the government can begin a workshop to ameliorate the state’s economic and fiscal situation and overhaul Lebanon’s abysmal public services. Offering to cooperate with all political parties, Hariri called for the ministers to get to “work” to solve the chronic electricity crisis, garbage collection problems and to fight corruption rampant in public administrations. Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament since 1992, said lawmakers could press ahead with their number one goal: to fight corruption.

Analysis

Corruption in Lebanon is widespread and permeates all levels of society. Every political party and ministry is talking of fighting corruption as though it were a foreign element suddenly imposed upon the Lebanese institutional system, without anyone taking any serious responsibility for it. Few political parties have implemented an agenda to start a process of reform and fight corruption. The task seems impossible, partly due to the Lebanese Penal Code which is not capable of enforcing laws against corruption. Lebanon’s confessional power-sharing arrangements fuels patronage networks and clientelism which have become part of the people’s DNA, undermining further the country’s governance system.

Lebanon is presented with an historic opportunity to solve many of its problems, a result of the fact that all governmental elements are now in place and of the newfound resilience, we are seeing in the top leaders.

Some pressing topics on the reform agenda present challenges for the political and religious system in Lebanon, and could therefore be a starting point for Lebanese citizens to hope once again for a change in the future of the country: civil marriage, social services, implementation of laws, administrative recruitments and others.

Ultimately, is it possible for us to trust again in our political leadership to fight corruption, since they were at least witness if not actual partakers (more likely) in the corruption that has crippled Lebanon?

Theological Reflections and Missional Implications

The church should be mindful of this historic opportunity and should begin to engage with certain issues related to the implementation of reforms and fighting corruption, most especially as it concerns personal integrity and general attitudes in Lebanese society.

The church is a member of the community. As such, any positive or negative behavior can easily infiltrate church communities and become habitual, even if problematic. Hereditary leadership is one of these habits taken on by the church. As the church reexamines its attitudes and practices and charts a new path, it can potentially become a viable example of healthy leadership for possible implementation in other socio-political spheres.

Is it still possible to hope for a life of dignity in Lebanon? Can we disregard our experiences and heretofore unfulfilled aspirations for a better future? Can we put our trust in the same people who have been in power and the ones who drove the country to the abyss? What should be our attitude at this crucial stage?

The church lives by the promised hope of Jesus Christ that God’s Kingdom is at hand, a small seed that would grow in abundance with time )Matthew 13:31). Although some would say that fighting corruption is ultimately a top down process, a small seed can always bring about change. The church has a momentous opportunity to support this governmental workshop taking place by teaching and promoting Kingdom ethics and advocating change in the community. Only if the church seizes the moment and takes advantage of this opportunity can a seed of hope be planted in the abyss within which Lebanon finds itself, as it strives toward a truly kingdom-like life.