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The Mideast’s epitaphs of death and the duty to remember

By The Editors

"I think it is our duty as Christians, whether lay people or clergymen, to have the courage to remember history under any latitude in order to promote reconciliation and build it on more solid foundations... I wish to remember what happened in the streets of Beirut in 1982 when Italy's Bersaglieri force arrived following the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Colonel Franco Angioni, who was in command of our soldiers at the time, asked Shia Muslim and Phalangist Christian leaders to order their men not to go around armed in the area under Italian control. The leaders of the various factions refused. A few days later Angioni had a group of Phalangist militiamen arrested and disarmed. News about what happened spread immediately, especially in Shia and Sunni areas. 'Italian soldiers have arrested Phalangists, Christians,' Muslims said. 'They did it even though they too are Christian; these soldiers tell the truth; they don't want to disarm us to favour our adversaries.' After this episode, filled with tension and disbelief, Shia militiamen and Phalangists stopped showing their weapons in those parts of Beirut under Italian control. That early action kept the peace for some time..."

Posted 3/14/08 at 12:17 PM