Cardinal al-Rahi: Lebanon's two million Syrian refugees are "a major danger"
Syrians and Palestinians have increased the Lebanese population from 4 to 6 million. They were welcomed because they were in danger, but they must be able to go home. "Experience taught us to live with Muslims and get their sympathy. With these wars we are the big losers,” the patriarch said. "If we lose Muslim moderation, we risk feeding fundamentalism and terrorism.”
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Lebanon runs a "major danger" at the political, economic, demographic and cultural level due to the presence of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. Together they represent half of the entire population. They were welcomed because they were in danger, but they must be able to go home, said Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi in an interview with Lebanese newspaper L'Orient Le Jour about Syrian refugees and the situation of Christians in the Middle East after his return from a pastoral visit to the United States, where he took part in the fourth ‘In Defense of Christians’ summit.
The patriarch stressed that the presence of Syrians and Palestinians has increased the Lebanese population from 4 to 6 million. “Why should Lebanon with its 10,000 square kilometres of mountains and valleys take on an excess of people equal to half its population? [Meanwhile,] The Lebanese emigrate for lack of work."
This, he noted, "is a major danger, not only in economic terms, but also political, demographic, cultural, security and environment terms. Lebanon has welcomed these exiles out of a spirit of solidarity, but it cannot sacrifice itself for the sake of others. It's time they go home. [. . .] The burden,” he said earlier, “is too heavy for us."
As for the situation of Christians in the Middle East, Card al-Rahi states that "persecution has occurred sometimes” but “There is no deliberate movement of persecution and genocide,” only “some events, attacks and persecution here and there.”
"Everybody says that we need to save the Christian presence. Let us end the war and establish a just, durable and global peace. Let us be fair and courageous and let us say that those who have had to leave their land can go back. But we did not hear this. We only felt a sense of pity when Christians are subjected to aggression and persecution."
"That's not enough! It is impossible to move forward in the situation in which we are in the Middle East."
For the patriarch, "one must distinguish Islam from fundamentalists and the terrorists, who carry out destruction in the name of Islam. Experience taught us to live with Muslims and get their sympathy. With these wars we are the big losers."
"If we lose Muslim moderation, we risk feeding fundamentalism and terrorism. If the international community does not help refugees go home, they will become a fertile ground for terrorist movements and organisations."