Washington Times Michael Hirst April 3, 2007
BEIRUT — Christians are fleeing from Lebanon to escape the rise of radical Islam and growing fears that the trend will result in a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war, with minority Christians trapped in the middle.
In a poll to be published next month, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating.
Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies, according to the poll. Their exodus could rob the country of an influential minority, which has acted as an important counterbalance to the forces of Islamic extremism.
About 60,000 Christians have left since the summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shi’ite factions is looming.
“If we love our children, we have to tell them to get out,” said Maria, a Christian mother from the northern city of Tripoli who refused to give her surname for fear of reprisal. “When my daughter finished her high school, I sent her to Europe, and I will follow her if I can.”