Lebanese citizens are concerned that the ongoing clashes could drag their country back into civil war. Fr. Khalil Samir Khalil, SJ of St Joseph’s University in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, told Vatican Radio that the situation is a complex weave of politics and religion. “The conflict is becoming a religious one within Islam,” between Sunnis who constitute an absolute majority within the Muslim world and Shi’a minority groups, including the Alawite group to which Syria’s embattled leader, Bashar al-Assad, belongs.
The powerful Lebanese Shi’ite paramilitary group Hezbollah is engaged in Syria and allied with Iran – which is a major provider of funding and weapons to Hezbollah by way of Syria – and now Sunni militia groups have begun to arm as well. In Beirut, militia loyal to both sides blocked roads, while local media report that some hardline Sunni mosques in Tripoli and Beirut called for jihad, or holy war, in support of the Sunni cleric, Assir, whose mosque complex government forces stormed at the weekend.