Between Aoun and Hariri, Card al-Rahi says that dialogue is a duty, not an option
by Fady Noun

The Maronite patriarch is pushing the president and the prime minister-designate towards reaching an agreement. The relationship between Card Sako and the Shia leader al-Sadr is an example. Public service and political responsibility should overcome personal disagreements. However, acrimony seems to have taken over.


Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi is pursuing his mediation to get President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to find an honourable compromise for the formation of a new Lebanese government. However, his efforts face a certain stubbornness that is not new to Lebanese political life.

A comment by former Maronite lawmaker Fares Souhaid can illustrate the situation to better understand this existential obstinacy that prevents the meeting between the two men,

On 3 January, a delegation sent by Muqtada al-Sadr visited the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Card Louis Raphael Sako, to inform him that property improperly taken from Iraqi Christians after the American invasion of 2003 and the mass exodus of Christians from Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities will be returned to them and that a committee has been created to restore justice by ending violations of Christians property rights, even when they were committed by Sadr’s own movement.

The good news followed the unanimous vote by the Iraqi Parliament in favour of a bill establishing Christmas as a public holiday. The decision was confirmed on 17 December, a few days before 25 December. In both cases, the patriarch of the Chaldeans expressed his gratitude.

Recently former Lebanese lawmaker Fares Souhaid wrote a tweet about the decision to return the confiscated properties. After linking this decision and the recent claim by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, telling the Lebanese that his missiles “protect them”, Souhaid, as a good Maronite, said: “We do not want any favours from Iraqis nor protection in Lebanon. We are Christians and citizens.”

These words reflect a political society that sees itself as Christian, which has always refused to accept anything other than that as a right. The former Lebanese lawmaker believes that Iraqi Christians do not have to thank Muqtada al-Sadr, even if Patriarch Sako want to.

Which of these two approaches should be considered appropriate? Which one is the most Christian? To answer this question, it is worth noting that the Shia leader’s decision is a step in a process of justice that requires restitution.

However, one cannot help but notice how this approach is akin to the necessary process of reparation that accompanies, for a Christian, any request for forgiveness. But by refusing to allow this remedy to come from a source other than the state, which can be understood on the whole, we forget that we owe our countrymen the very existence of this state which we claim as ours.

Without loyalty to this project, without the will to live together, the state would not exist, as many political scientists and philosophers, including Paul Ricœur, have noted. This means that the will to live together is the source of political power, even at the risk that it might become domination.

The original political “sin” of Lebanon’s Christians since the creation of Greater Lebanon (1920), with few exceptions, has been precisely to have seen politics not as power, but as domination. This is so much the case that it is safe to say that the Lebanese, Muslim communities come to mind, have not yet seen the light of the Gospel illuminate national life. So, were 150,000 deaths really necessary to have the clause providing for Islamic-Christian parity in Parliament included in the 1976 Constitutional Document (Taif, 1989)?

How could anyone see the love of Christ in the brutal war that Christians waged against Palestinian and Islamic progressive forces, conducted initially in the name of self-defence, and the subsequent war, no less ruthless, among themselves for internal military supremacy?

Of course, criticising Christians does not mean exonerating other groups from the violence that they too perpetrated; it means instead highlighting a process whose course has not yet been reversed, at least politically. Highlighting God’s judgment in the Gospel according to St Luke: “. . . more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (12:48) is also a basis for moral responsibility in this world.

The Maronite patriarch's current approach stems from this principle. Bechara al-Rahi is trying to get the president and the prime minister-designate to base their personal relations not on political domination, but on true human, moral and civic principles, reminding them that their political functions must serve the common good and living together, knowing that everything that weakens this living together also weakens the state of which it is the source.

In essence the patriarch is saying: “Talking to each other is not an option, it is a duty, given the political issues associated with it, in this case the formation of a government.” Unfortunately, political acrimony hitherto expressed has irreversibly compromised this goal.