12/15/2017, 15.55
LEBANON

Christian and Muslim leaders offer a "single voice" on Jerusalem

Fady Noun

Leaders held a historic meeting in Bkerke yesterday. Trump's "unfortunate" decision is a provocation to the Christians and Muslims of the world and distorts the spiritual mission of the Holy City. The choice by the US "lacks the wisdom needed by true peace makers". Lebanon’s Islamic-Christian voice is precious.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Despite its seemingly formal aspect, yesterday's interfaith summit in Bkerke will go down in history because of the seriousness of the issue it addressed, namely the status of the city of Jerusalem. Going against almost the entire international community, as well as repeated calls by the Vatican to give the Holy City a special status guaranteed by the international community, the US president made the "unfortunate" decision to declare unilaterally that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Without prejudging the international legal consequences of the US decision, and in the wake of the recent declarations on this subject by the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the leaders religious of Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim communities, meeting in Bkerke, have decided to stand firmly and united but without particular vehemence against the US president’s decision, which is heavy with consequences.

The declaration focuses on both the "religious rights" of monotheistic religions to their place in the Holy City, as well as the "national rights" of Palestinians not to be deprived of their capital. However, what characterises the situation above all – beside the Christian voice emanating from the Holy See or the Muslim voice resonating from Istanbul – is the precious Muslim-Christian voice that Lebanon is well placed to make heard. Indeed, the Hashemite monarch, King Abdullah, felt the need to go to the Lebanese Embassy in Amman to express his admiration to the ambassador.

Moreover, the concerned Lebanese circles have not hidden the fact that the position of Lebanon's Christians on Jerusalem will bring worthy dividends in the Arab world. This includes the head of the Higher Shia Council, Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan, who expressed his admiration for Islamic-Christian Lebanon. Speaking about the position of Lebanon’s president at the Islamic summit held on the banks of the Bosphorus, he first called him "Mohammad Michel Aoun" before correcting himself and say "imam Michel Aoun".

Excerpts

Here are some important excerpts from the final press release issued by religious leaders, as read by the Secretary General of the National Committee for Islamic-Christian Dialogue, Mohammad Sammak:

"The city of Jerusalem is home to the sacred historical sites of the monotheistic religions, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Great Mosque (al-Aqsa). It is not an ordinary city like other cities of the world, but it occupies a privileged place in the consciousness of the believers of these religions. As a result, the US President's decision, based on private political calculations, is a provocation for more than three billion people and deeply affects their faith."

"Religious leaders say that all the world's leaders have decided to respect the UN resolutions that describe Jerusalem and the West Bank as occupied territories, and by virtue of this legal and ethical commitment, they have refrained from opening embassies in occupied Jerusalem. Even the United States had agreed to this policy until President Trump's unfortunate decision, on 6 December 2017, to violate its provisions."

"This decision, according to the religious leaders, not only contravenes international laws and conventions, but also undermines the symbolism of the Holy City, as a universal spiritual centre, where the name of God is invoked aloud and in a religious convergence of the values ​​of all monotheistic religions."

"Changing this noble image of the Holy City, changing that spiritual mission that this decision entails, and the fact of considering this decision as a fait accompli (. . .) are a challenge to the religious feelings and the national rights of the Palestinians."

"Together people salute the Palestinian people, especially the residents of the Holy City, and salute their resistance to the occupation and attempts to change the religious and national identity of the city."

"This is why," the statement goes on to say, "the leaders together invite the members of the international community to work together to put pressure on the US administration to reverse a decision that lacks the wisdom needed by true peace makers."

"They call on the American public (. . .) that some voices may rise high to warn President Trump and his administration about the dangers of this unjust decision, which plunges the Middle East into a new cycle of violence that comes on top of many others. "

Settlement

"The leaders together greatly fear that President Trump’s unilateral decision against a major resolution of international legality relating to the Palestinian cause will also lead him to go against other similar resolutions, including the one related to the right of Palestinians to self-determination and return to their occupied country, which has had direct repercussions for Lebanon, home to about 500,000 refugees since 1948 and which rejects in the preamble of its Constitution any plan for open or masked settlement.

"Finally, the religious leaders expressed their attachment to the notion of conviviality between Christians and Muslims, in perfect civic equality, and their support for the official position of Lebanon, including the plan proposed by the President of Lebanon Michel Aoun at the United Nations, whose aim is to view Lebanon as an international centre for dialogue between religions and cultures."

At the opening of the meeting, Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi said: "Most of us have expressed our refusal of this decision, individually or on behalf of our communities. Today, we are meeting to express, as one voice, our joint refusal."

"We demand, as does the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the application of international laws passed since 1947, especially resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, under which Jerusalem has a special status (. . .)," Bishop al-Rahi said.

The interfaith meeting saw the participation of the Maronite Patriarch, the Mufti of the Republic, the President of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan, Druze Sheikh Akl, Catholicos Aram I, the patriarchs of the Armenian Catholic and Greek Catholic, Youssef Abdo, the patriarchs of the Syriac-Orthodox and Syriac-Catholics, a representative of the Greek Orthodox patriarch, the Apostolic Vicar of the Latin César Essayan, the president of the Evangelical Community in Lebanon and Syria Rev Salim Sahyouni, the vicar of the Alawite Council, a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a representative of the Chaldean Church, a representative of the Coptic Catholic Church, and members of the National Committee for Christian-Muslim dialogue.

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