Clarissa's Middle East Diary: Monday, January 29

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels

Monday, January 29, 8:19 a.m.

The other day I was walking through the center of Beirut, where members of the Hezbollah-led opposition are camped out in tents. I saw a group of young men taking large slabs of stone and throwing them on to the ground to break the stone into smaller rocks. They then collected the rocks in large baskets. Stock-piling.

Lebanese people gathering rocks to throw at other Lebanese people. What a frightening concept.

During my first year living in Beirut, I had no idea which of my friends were Sunni or Shiite and which were Maronite or Greek Orthodox or Catholic. Gradually, I came to make small observations. I noticed that certain names were typically Shiite or Sunni, or that certain Christians were more likely to speak French at home than Arabic. But there was a general level of religious tolerance, however superficial, that allowed this country to flourish.

As tensions mount here, I see those religious divisions becoming more pronounced and more political. I see people beginning to define themselves and others by their religion. Last Tuesday, a good friend of mine drove a woman home across Beirut during a massive strike that had sparked rioting and shut down many roads. The next day, she called to thank him.

"By the way," she said towards the end of the conversation, "I forgot to ask you who you are with."

Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.