While Middle East Christians increasingly fear the rise of Islamism amid the upheaval of the “Arab Spring,” one Muslim terrorist group seemingly acted out of character on Christmas. Experts, however, say not to be fooled by Hezbollah’s holiday cheer.
The ascendancy of Sunni Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood is forcing Christians to seek help from other minorities like the Shi’a, who also face a common threat from the Sunni Islamists. Today this scenario is playing out in Syria and Lebanon. Christians fleeing the Syrian civil war are heading to Lebanon, where the Shi’a terrorist group Hezbollah dominates with some support of Christian groups.
Hezbollah, along with its benefactors in Iran, is locked in a regional struggle with the Sunnis and fears the loss of its Alawite ally in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad.
Consequently, reaching out to minority groups such as Christians makes strategic sense for Hezbollah.
On Christmas, Hezbollah’s new message was on full display, broadcasting displays of Christmas celebrations on its TV channel and even sending out a Christmas message.
“The teachings of Jesus Christ—which inspire every philanthropist—contradict what the region is witnessing in terms of injustice affecting our Christian brethren in Palestine and the region,” the terrorist group said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
However, Christians should not be lulled by the false sense of security projected by Hezbollah, according to experts.
“For Iran and Syria, their main backers, Hezbollah is mainly a strategic force against Israel. That’s the point—not creating an Islamic state or fighting a sectarian war,” Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment Middle East Center, told the Christian Science Monitor.
“Hezbollah is a very top-down organization. If Iran decrees something else, something else will happen,” he said.