Invited by Patriarch Rahi, Christian political leaders from both government and opposition met to talk. The issues on the table were the separation of religion and politics, the defence of Christian-owned land, a greater Christian presence in public institutions, the promotion of the common good, and the collective responsibility Christians have in promoting the values of the Gospel in society. A committee is set up to promote further meetings.Beirut (AsiaNews) – The separation of religion and politics, the defence of Christian-owned land, a greater Christian presence in public institutions and the promotion of the common good “for the betterment of the country, society and government” were the goals laid out by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rahi at a meeting with 34 Maronite political leaders, from both the ruling coalition and opposition parties, held at the Patriarchal See in Bkerke.

For Mgr Rahi, Lebanese Christians, independently of their political beliefs, have a “collective responsibility” to promote the values of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church in society. “We are here to examine our reality and decide how to improve it, despite [our] different political beliefs, which still follow our values and culture, in light of the teachings of the Church and Lebanon’s special character.”

Maronite Catholic Patriarch Beshara Rai has scolded Lebanese political leaders for their failure to resolve a 4-month deadlock in the formation of a national-unity government. “All of us, Muslim and Christian Lebanese, are looking forward to building a country that we inherited from our grandfathers,” Patriarch Rai said.

Before the meeting, an agreement was expected on two topics, namely the sale of Christian-owned land and the ways to enhance the Christian presence in public institutions. “Christians represent 30 per cent of the public work force. This is inacceptable,” Bishop Salim Mazloum said.

“Only by participating in public institutions can Christians maintain an active presence,” the patriarch said.

Some observers expected members of the ruling ‘8 March’ coalition to cause some difficulties with respect to Hizbollah’s weapons and the international tribunal investigating the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Apparently, the issues were discussed but nothing is known as to what was said.

Still, the first comments following the meeting were positive. Participants also decided to set up a committee to prepare further meetings so that “Lebanon can remain an example of democracy and freedom.”


BEIRUT: The culture of religious, political and economic diversity is fundamental to the survival of Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Friday.“What is the culture of Lebanon?

It is diversity in cultures and religions because religions are also spiritual, moral, historic and artistic cultures. Lebanon’s culture is a crossroad for civilizations and religions,” Rai said during a cultural gathering at the seat of the Maronite patriarchate in Bkirki.

Rai added that Bkirki was committed to promoting a rich and diverse Lebanese culture on economic, social, political and religious levels.

The patriarch said Lebanon’s culture was based on freedom of speech and beliefs, contrary to countries that adopt religious regimes based on the culture of “only one party, one opinion, one religion and one hand with control over power.”

Lebanon separated religion from the state, but the state believes in God and recognizes all religions, Rai said.

“The separation between the religion and the state is our demand but we reject the separation between the state and God. In the West, they separate the world from God and they are suffering from a decay in moral and humanitarian values,” Rai said.

Following his election as patriarch in March, Rai said the Maronite church was committed to a civil state in Lebanon.

The patriarch also held separate talks Friday with the ambassadors of the United States (Maura Connelly), Romania (Daniel Tanase) and Austria (Eva Maria Ziegler.)

Rai had sponsored Thursday a second meeting of Maronite leaderships in less than two months in an attempt to end political divisions within the Maronite community.

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh were among the 37 Maronite lawmakers and figures who attended the meeting in Bkirki.

The meeting ended with an agreement to safeguard Lebanese land, preserve Lebanon’s special identity and its diverse society, and achieve an equal division of civil service posts between Christians and Muslims.

Property sales and high emigration rates have raised fears over organized efforts to alter the country’s demographic balance, as Lebanon’s Christian community has fallen to almost 40 percent, threatening the ongoing viability of a system of power-sharing based on parity between Muslims and Christians.

Bkirki reportedly aims to repair the schism between the two Christian camps, one siding with the U.S.-French-Saudi axis and the other with the Syrian-Iranian axis.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::