A question worth pondering in the wake of the Myriam Achkar crime is this: Why did the church of Sahel Alma employ a poor Syrian man with a military background to be a janitor? There must a lot of unemployed people in Sahel Alma and the nearby villages, but would any one of them consider doing that job for the same amount of money?
The purpose of the question is not to pin the blame for the hideous crime on the church, but to remember that in the world we live in, we all need “outsiders” to do the jobs the locals are refusing to do. The story is the same for Syrian janitors in Sahel Alma, Egyptian gas station workers in Burj hammoud, Morrocan burger flippers in Paris and Mexican nannies in Texas.
We in Lebanon are so caught up with the sectarian explanation of social ills that we are forgetting that this is a global economic and social issue that many countries are trying to deal with.
The not-so-comfortable truth is that outsiders, especially poor ones, commit more crimes. They do it because they lack the restraining effect of shame and belonging to a community. Think of it this way: Anonymous commentators on blogs write more vicious things than people who use their real names. They do it because their anonymity protects them from shame.
But that doesn’t mean that we should vilify all outsiders, whether in Burj Hammoud, Ketermaya or Sahel Alma, and constantly remind them that they’re outsiders. Perhaps by doing so we are alienating them more and making them even more dangerous.
The small, homogeneous town where everyone knows everyone is becoming a thing of the past. We should find new and creative ways to fight crime, which should include a law enforcement aspect (better policing and monitoring) , but also a social aspect relating to awareness and communicating with outsiders.