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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 07:42 GMT
Lebanese Christians: Johnny Kairouz
I think that being a Christian is an identity. It is not about just being a believer.

We have freedom of religion here. For the last century we have practised our religion in a very free way.

Johnny Kairouz
Name: Johnny Kairouz
Age: 25
Lives: Beirut, Lebanon
Works: Advertising executive
Today things are more political here.

I used to live in Saudi Arabia. The Islamic police there are very strict. As a Christian you are not allowed to practise your religion and Christian symbols are banned.

This had an impact on me. When I returned to Lebanon, on the way from the airport to home we passed portraits of [Iranian Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini.

I thought, "OK, Islamists can do whatever they want in their own country, but not in my own country, because of what happened to me in Saudi."

Every day is a concern here. Lebanon today has the Islamic threat of Hezbollah, not through their weapons but as a political and social party.

I'm afraid they will create a Lebanese Islamic state, which is why it is important to emphasise the pluralistic aspects of our society.

When I went to college I found many Muslim friends. Socially, it has never been an issue as, socially, I am secular.

My faith is something very personal for me. I may only attend church occasionally but I believe. I have my own perception of Christianity.

I think this situation is unique in Lebanon. From the Western perspective it is hard to understand. Westerners have separated politics from the church.

Total population: 4m
Estimated Christians: 1.35m-1.6m
% Christian: 34-41%
Main churches: Maronite, Greek Orthodox
Issues: Political change
Today in Lebanon there are three scenarios. The first is freedom for all.

The second is that Christians are a majority but ruled by an Islamic minority which may want to apply Islamic rules. We could be treated like second class citizens or "dhimmis", as they are called.

The third is that, eventually, we become a small and persecuted minority.

I hope we get to the stage where people just accept Lebanon as their final identity.

The ideal political system is a secular one, but can we really separate religion from politics here?

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