Saving The Jesuite Garden… because It’s Christian

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I always thought everyone knew that Beirut had a green space problem. The city has 3 parks that are open to the public. You can count the trees on the entire city’s sidewalks. There is no concept of urban planning. And there’s certainly no functional public transport system, which is one of the main flaws with the city structure.

Yet there are people who think all is fine with the city environmentally. Don’t be shocked, yes they exist.

The fight to save the Jesuite Garden, which culminated in a protest held at the garden in question slightly less than a week ago didn’t take much to go down sectarian lines. The representative of the Beirut municipality that showed up at the protest had one line of interrogation to throw at those who didn’t want the garden removed: what’s your name? Where are you from? Who’s politically backing you?

Because, you know, God forbid a fight to save a park is exactly just that: a fight to save a green space.

Interestingly, for many – the fight wasn’t to save a green space. Many protestors against the park’s removal don’t even care that this is one of the few areas of green space in Beirut. They care that there are ancient Christian ruins there… And that might be exactly what is needed to save the park.

It’s one thing to tear down a tree. It’s even one thing to tear down a Phoenician port, a Roman hippodrome or any other old structure. But once religion comes into play, all projects are off. Do not even attempt. It happened with the Beirut Downtown site recently and it might happen again here.

The bottom line when the religion card is played in such cases often turns out to be positive. It might be even smart to cash in that card whenever possible. But is it healthy to coerce a municipality to save a park just because they don’t dare to awaken a sleeping monster not because they, as a municipality, should become aware of the problems such a destruction would cause?

The municipality will end up not learning anything for future practices later on or even possibly thinking about some plans to really tackle the issues that necessitated the park’s destruction.

Till when will the focus of individuals in this country be religion-centric, ignoring other facets of society that affect their lives as well and which are worth speaking up for?

I don’t want the Jesuite Garden gone not because it has a derivative of Jesus in its name and on its grounds. But what do I know, I guess. Talking about a temporary fix for parking and destruction of green spaces sure pales in comparison to Jesus.

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