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(LifeSiteNews) — A political scandal has erupted in Lebanon following the murder of a Christian politician in the Bekaa valley. Pascal Sleiman, a regional coordinator for the Christian Lebanese Forces party, was abducted and murdered on the night of Sunday, April 7.

His wife Micheline’s undaunted response to his killing was reported by L’Orient Today:

We are Christians. Our Christ conquered death. We are not afraid. We are not afraid of death. Every time one of us dies, we become stronger.

She continued:

We will be stronger than before. As Christians, we will not back down and we will stay in this country with all our might.

Initial reports of Sleiman’s death arising from a failed carjacking were met with widespread skepticism. His body was recovered from a remote and “lawless” area of Syria bordering Lebanon, according to L’Orient, and seven Syrian suspects have been arrested in connection with his death.

Sleiman’s wife Micheline remains convinced her husband’s death was no botched robbery attempt. She told L’Orient Today on Tuesday, April 9:

“I’m trying to understand. I don’t believe the versions [so far] put forward. [The alleged assailants] didn’t ask for ransom. They took my husband … but not the car: How can it be a car theft?” she questioned, before adding that on the day of his abduction, Pascal Sleiman had dismissed his bodyguards for the day.

“He was in his village [Mayfouk],” she said. According to her, “someone had to be watching him.”

Sleiman’s death has been termed a “political assassination” by his political party, Lebanese Forces (LF), which said in a press release that the “porous borders” created with Syria by Hezbollah had created the conditions for his murder.

The party has vowed to press for a “crackdown” on Syrian refugees in Lebanon following Sleiman’s killing. As Gulf News reported, Lebanese foreign affairs minister Abdallah Bou-Habib stressed the crisis was related to the populations displaced by the wars in Syria and in Gaza.

“We have 2.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon – a country of five million – and half a million Palestinians,” he said, calling for “limiting the presence of Syrians” in the country.

Independent Middle Eastern news source Al Monitor said that the Lebanese army had now confirmed claims that the murder suspects were Syrians. According to its report:

Sleiman was killed in what the Lebanese army said was a carjacking by Syrian gang members, who took his body to Syria.

LF is a Christian political party opposed both to the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and also to Hezbollah, whose dominance of Southern Lebanon both civilly and militarily has been reinforced since the abortive Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006.

According to LF, Hezbollah has forged a “strategic route” between the Iranian capital Tehran and the Lebanese capital of Beirut “under the name of unity of the fronts” in what may soon prove to be a regional war against Israel.

Israel has withdrawn from Gaza, sustaining drone and aerial attacks whilst removing its ground troops almost completely. This is seen as preparation for an offensive into the Palestinian enclave of Rafah, and is also rumored to portend an Israeli assault on Southern Lebanon itself.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has restated his intention to mount an assault on Rafah.

Meanwhile, tensions run high in Lebanon, with videos surfacing on social media of Lebanese men beating Syrians in the streets.

The Christian Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, has issued a statement condemning these attacks, which he claims are being fueled by the media. Lebanese news outlet Kataeb reported him offering his condolences to Sleiman’s family, whilst appealing for calm.

“We call for calm and restraint and ask the judiciary and security forces to do what is necessary and impose the harshest penalties on the criminals. We call on the media to refrain from misinterpreting and stirring up conflict,” he said on April 9.

Cardinal Al-Rahi welcomed the response of Sleiman’s widow, stressing she had set an example for the Lebanese and that she had “never uttered a single word calling for vengeance or murder.” 

Micheline Sleiman’s message was one of faith, hope and charity amidst tragedy. 

“We are children of the Resurrection, children of hope,” she said. 

The investigation into the killing continues, whilst tensions continue to rise within Lebanon over a war with Israel which Cdl. Al-Rahi said in March is being “imposed” on the civilian population by Hezbollah.  

Christians in Lebanon have roundly criticized the actions of Hezbollah in seeking to involve Lebanon in Israel’s war, with an earlier Reuters report saying that Christians feel they have no control over the decisions taken by Hezbollah.

So far, the Christian LF, Sleiman’s party, have not directly blamed Hezbollah for his killing, according to a report by Aawsat – which warns that Sleiman’s murder is “fueling sectarian tensions.”

The Lebanese Forces have not directly fingered their main rival – Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah – but party officials pointed to a string of killings of anti-Hezbollah figures in the last two decades as similar cases.

Returning to the rising current of Christian discontent with Hezbollah, it also notes that the Shi’ite Islamic militia has a superior arsenal to that of the Lebanese Army itself.

Criticism of Hezbollah from Lebanon’s Christian community has spiked in recent weeks, particularly after fighters from the group were accused of trying to fire rockets at neighboring Israel from a Christian village along Lebanon’s southern border. 

With mounting sectarian strife, and facing a potential war with Israel, Lebanon stands in need of the gifts of faith, hope, and charity displayed by Pascal Sleiman’s widow to look beyond a darkening time.

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