Global Brother vs. Local Other


Mapping Global Dynamics in Beirut’s Religious Property

Since the end of Lebanon’s war in 1990, religious property in Beirut has been witnessing new dynamics directly related to the new global processes. This phenomenon can be seen as a part of the strong satellization some religious communities are having toward one or several foreign countries to which they are related through common faith and/or common political agendas. Although these connections are not new in a country which gathers eighteen different religious communities that share the political power through a consociational form of government, the new dynamics introduced are operating at a quicker pace and on a bigger scale.

One effect of this phenomenon is the strong competition between the religious communities over the urban space by means of acquisition and transfer of religious property and construction of large-scale architectural projects. In a country where equality between the communities is a guarantee of civil peace, this competition is becoming a recurrent source of friction.

This research project seeks to map the transfer and acquisition of religious property as well as the new architectural projects of three religious denominations in postwar Beirut, namely the Maronite, the Shia, and the Sunni communities. It will analyze the new legal, political, and social mechanisms introduced by these denominations to impact on the urban space. Emphasis will be put on the role of the regional and global influences in the ways of financing, conception, management, use, and perception of the new spaces produced, while taking at the same time into consideration the complex power relations inside each community. A focus will be made on the new “interference spaces” between the religious communities. Beirut central district and the neighboring quarters of Bashura, Yessouiyeh and Nasra were chosen as a first study area.

A photo of the Muhammad al Amin mosque and the St. George Cathedral in Beirut. Taken by Joseph Rustom.
Muhammad al Amin mosque & St. George Maronite Cathedral in Beirut. Photo: J. Rustom
A drawing by Joseph Rustom.
Bell towers and minarets compete for physical and audio space in Beirut Central District. Drawing: J. Rustom