The Maronite Church – AR

3954186871_f33684642d_o.jpgSan Maron, Buenos Aires – Source

Maronite Christians are almost exclusively Lebanese or Lebanese in ancestry. They trace their origins back to Antioch in Syria, before they were driven to the Mountains of Lebanon by Islamic aggression in the 7th century.

The Maronite Church is arguably the oldest denomination in Christianity.

Acts 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

In their Lebanese homeland they had withstood over a millenia of Islamic oppression and massacre and are fiercely proud of their Christianity.

In the 11th century as the Crusaders went to the Holy Land, to drive back the Muslims who had stolen Christian lands, the Crusaders were amazed to find Christians who had survived centuries of Muslim persecution still hiding in the mountains of Lebanon. The West had lost all communication with them. The Pope called their preservation a miracle of God.

These were the Maronites.

After the Crusaders were forced to retreat, the Maronites were again subject to slaughter regularly by everyone around them. in the 19th Century, Ottoman Turk and Druze were massacring them. In the 20th, it was the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the Druze militias, and Syrian forces.

It is no wonder that so many fled to South America, and the West in general.

They are affiliated with Rome – and considered a branch of Catholicism; but have some minor differences. For ex: Parish priests can be married.

They have established themselves well in Argentina where around 1½ million Argentines are of Lebanese descent.

The Maronites have no love of Islam. They are wary of it. They may get along with Muslims personally, but they remember their history.

Some Maronites have gotten along quite well with Israelis. Some allied themselves with Israelis. Others are wary of Israelis, too; especially after the 2006 Israeli Bombings of Lebanon where even innocent Christian cities were targetted.

These Maronites constitute roughly half of the Arabs in South America – except for Chile, where Palestinian Christians chose to immigrate en masse, and where Palestinians outnumber Maronites.

Historically, the Maronites’ outlook has been westward looking. Many do not even consider themselves Arabs, but call themselves Phoenician – not without some degree of truth; though it is surely exaggerated. Almost all Maronites have some Arab blood in them. Many also have Crusader blood in them, and a considerable number of them can pass for European. They are probably the closest to European of all the Arab stocks.

Many Maronites were educated by Jesuits – often taught French; so when they landed in South America they had an edge. They arrived with a Western viewpoint; and many could speak French, a Latin language, not too distant from Spanish.

Of all the Arab groups that arrived in South America, it was the Maronite Catholics who were best suited to assimilate.

These Maronites in Argentina set more of an integrationist tone to the Arab community; unlike in Chile, where some elements of the Palestinian community seems to have radicalized.