Taking up arms: Lebanese Christians get ready for ISIS

On the terrace of his small apartment in Sin El Fil, east of Beirut, Ghassan sat cradling a Kalash­nikov rifle outfitted with a military-grade laser sight and listening to chatter on a military-grade Motorola radio. He is part of a group of Christians allied with Hezbollah who are preparing to fight Sunni extremist groups originating in Syria.

“The rifle is provided by Hezbollah, but we bought the radios ourselves,” he explained. “There are more than 30 groups like mine scattered across Lebanon in Christian areas.”

In Syria’s ongoing civil war, the Shi‘a Muslim group Hezbollah has joined Shi‘a Muslim Iran in backing President Bashar al-Assad. In August, the Syrian conflict spilled into Lebanon as Sunni jihadists believed to be affiliated with the Nusra Front and the Islamic State (or ISIS) waged an attack on Hez­bollah and the Lebanese army. They captured 37 soldiers and executed three of them. Christians in the country were further alarmed when graffiti glorifying ISIS appeared on church walls.