08/24/2021, 13.21
LEBANON
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Card al-Rahi promoting a local project of autonomy and solidarity to fight the crisis

by Fady Noun

The Maronite patriarch stands against those trying to empty the country of its Christians. The tragic explosion in Tleil has moved people. Church, lawmakers, Kesrouan-Jbeil municipalities, and business associations are trying to meet local food, medical and energy needs.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Are people in power trying to empty Lebanon of its Christian lifeblood? This is the serious accusation that the Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara a-Rahi, has just made against Lebanon’s political leaders.

Without naming anyone, the head of the Maronite Church suggested in his Sunday homily in Dimane, the summer residence of the Maronite patriarchs, that an attempt is underway “to empty the country of its living forces" and that Christians are the target of this Machiavellian plan.

As the country’s crisis drags on, the Patriarch announced that the Maronite Church will work to thwart the plan, in coordination with the local lawmakers, municipalities and business associations.

Temporarily, these groups will organise in such a way so as to provide the population the bulk of its food, medical, energy and communication needs, "by maintaining the appearance of a new state apparatus worthy of its name,” the head of the Maronite Church said.

Federation of Kesrouan Municipalities

In fact, two meetings have already been held at the headquarters of the Federation of Kesrouan Municipalities, in Jounieh, in order to organise civil life in the area, sources say.

The meetings brought together five lawmakers from the Kesrouan-Jbeil constituency, including the president’s son-in-law Chamel Roukoz, major industrialist Neemat Frem, and Farid el-Khazen, as well as bishops and patriarchal vicars Paul Rouhana and Nabil Andari, plus many local councillors and business leaders like owners of drug manufacturing factories and fuel importers.

The aim is to put an end to the widespread chaos caused by shortages, best exemplified by the endless queues at petrol stations, which sometimes end up in violence.

We know that the Lebanese pound has lost some 90% of its purchasing power, and that fuel shortages caused by the depletion of the reserves of the Bank of Lebanon endanger the food and medical security of the population, with hospitals and refrigerated warehouses running out of fuel.

The tragedy of Tleil

The tragedy of Tleil (Akkar), which caused more than a hundred deaths and scores of burn victims, led to this realisation, if we are to believe MP Chamel Roukoz. For the latter, the fire that followed the explosion could have been avoided if the illegal tank discovered by the army had been placed under guard rather than left to disorderly looting. It is the accidental repeat of such a tragedy, which is still possible in the current state of anarchy, that the authorities and groups involved are trying to avoid.

“Petrol supply, which is particularly difficult because it takes hours to refuel, is not the only need of the population,” said Roukoz, a retired brigadier general. Rubbish collection, power supplies, medicines, butane gas, communications are all essential needs that the population cannot meet without making great sacrifices”.

“The organisation has never undermined the country’s unity," explained Roukoz, who is pessimistic about the formation of a new government.

“Aren't you afraid of being accused of isolationism, or partition?” asked some. “We have nothing to do with this,” President Michel Aoun's son-in-law said. “What we are doing is an act of public security, not of partition.”

“The main thing for the lawmaker, who said that these meetings will be held weekly, is not to let people devour each other. The organisation is a good and necessary thing, especially at times of shortages.”

According to analyst Jean Aziz, the meeting at the headquarters of the federation of municipalities in the Kesrouan constituency, where the headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchate is located, helped establish “a priority list”, starting with public services essential to social life such as power supplies to water filtering stations, hospitals, pharmaceutical factories and central communication units.

Security too is no exception. “There is talk of giving more power and authority to the municipal police to restore order around petrol stations and, in general, fight crime," the analyst said.

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