The story behind the story in the Middle East

By Harry Hagopian
August 1, 2011

The Middle East and North Africa area remains a vast and heterogeneous region of turbulence, confusion, hope, dread, reform, stand-off, contradiction, expectation, frustration, life and death.

As those involved in the Arab Spring look for ways to trace a vision through the dust of summer, I am reminded every single day of the nuances of what is happening in countries like Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and beyond - including the on-radar and off-radar struggles regarding a possible Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in September 2011.

However, it has become clear - to optimists and pessimists alike - that this is a struggle for the long haul. No short-term solutions or easy breakthroughs are available.

Perhaps we should re-read some of Jean de La Fontaine's fables to appreciate the caustic irony of what is occurring today: in one of those 243 remarkable stories, a lion saves a small boy from the clutches of the wolf only to eat him later.

It is difficult to focus on the finer political subtleties and underlying human values behind what is going on in MENA in few short minutes - but that is what the media are required to do.

In my latest podcast 18-minute conversation with James Abbott ( hosted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, I have tried ito give a picture of the realities in Syria, Libya and Egypt, and then conclude with three prayerful pauses, by contrast.

The weeks ahead are going to be decisive. Will reason prevail? Jean de La Fontaine's fables can probably address that question as well as any politician, analyst or activist today.

But in the meantime, is it not our Christian and human duty to provide the moral alternative, to speak out boldly and with integrity on issues of peace and justice, and to express solidarity and outreach with all peoples?

* The full podcast can be heard here:


© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor ( Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is

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