On Romanticizing Staying or Leaving Difficult Places: A Reflection about Christians and the Middle East Today

I wonder if this is the year that we can finally stop glorifying staying in Lebanon and idealizing leaving it. In my family’s 13 years living in Lebanon, the question of emigration has never been far from people’s minds. As Lebanese journalist Zahra Hankir put it recently, “loving Lebanon is one thing; living there is another.” Yet, those words have become the hard reality of anyone living in Lebanon these days.

The multiple crises contributing to the collapse of even the most basic services in Lebanon make it difficult for many to live, work, and provide for themselves and families. In turn, people like my natour (building watchman) and the teens working at the veggie stand and dear family friends all express a heightened urgency to move and settle somewhere, anywhere, else. People are desperate. The feeling of no longer being “at home” in Lebanon is driving what may amount to Lebanon’s 6th wave of emigration since the late 1800’s.

For Christians in the Arab world emigration raises difficult questions about how to see the situation theologically, and how to respond. This theological reflection about staying or leaving commonly surfaces two significant anxieties that I want to look at briefly: existence and faithfulness.

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