Arab spring, an expression of youth’s broken aspirations, Lebanese bishops say
by Fady Noun
At their annual assembly, Lebanon’s Catholic patriarchs and bishops focus on young people, recognising that the Church needs a new language to be closer to the younger generations. They plead for a non-violent future of the Arab world’s revolutions.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – “The ongoing Arab revolutions were organised to give young people space to realise their dreams,” said the final communiqué of the Annual Assembly of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon. Held at Bkerké (Beirut), the meeting ended last Saturday. Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai presided.

The event centred on “young people, their space and mission in the Church” following a recommendation made at the special meeting of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome in October 2010, that stressed that “young people are the future of the Church and its witnesses in their community”.

Based on field research and a questionnaire sent to 1,200 people aged 18 to 30, the members of the assembly stressed the need to “modernise the language used by the Church to communicate with young people.”

On this issue, the prelates listened to members of the laity, men and women, members of associations and scholars, who described their expectations and outlined possible changes that could help the Church recruit more members, believers and non-believers.

The assembly also looked at the social effects of modernity on young people, the impact of the media, and their involvement in non-governmental organisations and disappointed expectations.

Equally, the prelates noted with great satisfaction the involvement of thousands of young people in the lay apostolate, in parishes and associations.

However, the bishops expressed their concern concerning the “marginalisation of youth, overwhelmed by media, living at the speed of historically unprecedented progress”. In fact, young people “suffer from the environment’s social and political instability, which is a source of psychological problems, and complain that they have no influence on their future, choosing instead to lose themselves (in drugs), rebel or emigrate.”

At a political level, the Church’s position vis-à-vis the Arab spring has evolved. “The ongoing revolutions in Arab nations are but one of the faces of youth aspirations,” the press release said. “Our goal is to create a space where they can realise their dreams and play a more effective role in society and public life.”

On this point, the communiqué goes beyond and calls for “political, social and economic reforms for the Arab peoples in revolt.” It also urges Arabs to conduct their struggle peacefully “far from war and the bloodshed currently occurring.”

For the rest, the statement reiterates the message of the Maronite Church, which calls for the consolidation of the country’s unity on the basis of the National Pact, respect for democracy, civil liberties, human rights, political pluralism and the creation of a civic nation (II. 1 and 2) that is neither a theocracy nor a purely secular state.

The Council also called for “respect of all of Lebanon’s international commitments, starting with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is trying to shed light and find justice in the case of the assassination of Rafik Hariri.”

The bishops also called for a stronger Islamic-Christian dialogue, a “dialogue of life between two cultures”, hoping that the country might be designated by the United Nations as an “international centre for dialogue between religions, cultures and civilisations.”

Finally, the Council pleaded once more for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a “just and global solution that respects international resolutions, including the rights of Palestinians to return to their land and to have their own state within secure and recognised borders.”

On internal administrative matters, the Council decided that next year would be the Year of the Bible. It underscored the importance of reconciling spouses, before marriage annulment, and expressed its support for private, no-fee schools.

Lastly, the communiqué indicated the names of the new heads of the Council’s various committees.