Patriarch Raï to Hezbollah: Stop dragging Lebanon into wars and divisions
by Fady Noun

Cardinal launches new attack o Shiite movement, the last obstacle to a position of "neutrality" in the interest of the country and its people. The dialogue between the president and the prime minister in charge renewed, with a view to forming a new government. Behind the scenes the dialogue between the patriarchate and the Shiite movement continues in the framework of the bipartite committee Bkerké-Hezbollah.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Faced with the risk of compromising the peacemaking efforts that aim to facilitate the process of forming a new government, in which the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Raï is personally active, some TV channels and social media yesterday posted reports which, in no uncertain terms and in a sort of "political truth", make no attempts to hide the reality of the facts.

In the reports the Cardinal openly accuses Hezbollah of wanting to drag the Lebanese into a war (against Israel) against the will of their people and without seeking their opinion. The patriarch expressed these thoughts ahead of a speech delivered on March 31 last by the general secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, in which he hinted that we should not "despair" about the possibility of forming a new government.

"Why are you against neutrality?" Do you want to force us to go to war? " says the patriarch in a video which went viral on social networks in the night between March 31 and April 1. “Why do you reject an initiative of neutrality that is in your interest and that of all Lebanese and opens the path to prosperity? Why did you decide to drag the Lebanese into a war that you decided to wage without first asking for their opinion?”.

"Did you ask for the advice and approval of the Lebanese before your involvement in Syria, Iraq and Yemen? Did you hear the government's opinion before deciding on war or peace with Israel? " continues the head of the Maronite Church, recalling that according to the Constitution these decisions must be taken "by the government with a two-thirds majority".

"What I do [advocating neutrality] I do in your interest, but you, you just ignore both our interest and that of your base," the patriarch insisted. He then added that he had listened to some Hezbollah supporters who came to meet him in Bkerké and that they confided to him that the weapons of the Shiite party are "also directed against them", that "they can no longer bear" this situation and "are hungry" like all the rest of the Lebanese people.

The video is taken from a videoconference held on March 27 by the patriarch in Bkerké, with the faithful of the parish of San Marone in Brooklyn and of Our Lady of Lebanon in Los Angeles. The conference is available online in its entirety. The part that is of interest comes after 49 minutes.

Those who know the Maronite patriarch, have found the video unsurprising, and there is a tendency to distinguish clearly between the words of the patriarch and the process of formation of the government.

"These are words he has been saying for some time and he has never hidden" observed a personality close to the cardinal, who adds that the head of the Maronite Church "still hopes that common ground will be found between the head of state and the prime minister in charge , in such a way as to favor the formation of a new government ”.

For his part, the lawyer Harès Chéhab believes "that it is useless to create a case and mount the controversy; the latter will deflate by itself ".

 Anyone was able to upload the video in question, adds the lawyer, given that the words of the patriarch were pronounced on March 27 in front of several hundred faithful. The lawyer, together with the patriarchal vicar Samir Mazloum, represents the Maronite patriarchate within the bipartite committee Bkerké-Hezbollah, charged with promoting dialogue between the two bodies.

On February 27, during a large demonstration organized in Bkerké to support his appeals for Lebanon's neutrality and to hold an international conference under the aegis of the UN on the Lebanese crisis, the patriarch had asked for the "liberation of legality from the shirt of force that holds it back ”, now that“ the territory has been liberated ”.

After this accusation against Hezbollah and its weapons, the dialogue between the parties nevertheless continued thanks to the work of the bipartite committee. This group met on 8 March and, according to a statement by the pro-Iranian party, raised "the question of positive neutrality proposed by Patriarch Raï".

Hezbollah believes that Lebanon cannot be neutral in the face of Israeli "threats" and believes that an internationalization of the issue under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter would amount to a "declaration of war" . However, the patriarch never mentioned this possibility, recalling that independent Lebanon was born in 1943 based on the pillar of neutrality.