When does an anti-Government uprising become a civil war? Can the rebels wage a proper united campaign? How will the West proceed in its dealings with Libya and the wider North Africa Middle East (MENA) region?
These were some of the issues I discussed in my two podcasts a week ago for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, to whom I am consultant on the Middle East.
This was an opportunity to reflect upon the situation in Libya, the issue of a no-fly zone over the country – and also to assess the serious uprisings in Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain. 'People power' has come to the fore, but where will this lead?
Of course, the issues and realities on the ground have moved on further in a matter of days. But it is important to retain our sense of perspective amid the dramtic events and headlines.
The link to the full podcasts is below. But here are a few excerpts:
On people power...
“People have suddenly realised that there is something called ‘people power’, so every grievance that they’ve had over the last decades suddenly is coming out to the fore and people are saying it’s time for us to go and demonstrate and right those wrongs.”
On foreign intervention - a potential ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya...
“We in the West have had some very awkward moments in the Middle East and have seen that the result of any military action can actually be counter-productive for our interests - let alone the interests of the region as a whole. I caution people, I pray for wisdom and hope that before we become too gung ho about it we think a little bit more strategically rather than just react tactically.”
On regional uprisings outside Libya...
“Libya is now the focal point of many of our thoughts so you forget that in Yemen there are serious uprisings taking place against the President. I think Yemen is in a very fragile state at the moment. Even in Bahrain and in a relatively calm, relaxed monarchical system like Jordan there are angry uprisings and demonstrations taking place. If you look at other countries like Iraq - [a country] we supposedly liberated from an autocrat some years ago - now if you go to places as far north as Kurdistan and as far south as Basra you see peoople who are demonstrating. These demonstrations are as much random as sporadic.”
On future solidarity between Muslims and Christians...
“Much as I was happy with this coming together in Tahreer Square [Cairo] where Christians and Muslims - the Crescent and the Cross - where fighting together a common cause against injustice, I wouldn’t want to see it backpedalling again, to a situation when minority communities - particularly Christian minority communities across the range of the Middle East North Africa would be subjugated again to the whims of a small group of fanatical extremists.”
On future uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region...
“If something happens in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, or if this goes even further, then it’s not only a question of oil and regional security then we are redefining a whole vision of what the Middle East is or looks like.”
* The podcast link: http://www.catholicchurch.org.uk/mena-2 
* A direct link to the mp3 file:
* Middle East section of the Catholic Bishops’ website:
© c) 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, and he is a regular Ekklesia contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian ). Formerly, he was 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 www.epektasis.net