08/23/2005, 00.00
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Greek-Catholic Patriarch for the return of displaced people to Mount Lebanon

by Youssef Hourany

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Greek-Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham has asked Christian and Muslim MPs to commit themselves to the return of all the people who were displaced from Mount Lebanon. The patriarch met Fuad el Saad and Faysal Sayegh and insisted that people must be encouraged to return to their villages of origin. But he also said it was necessary to prepare for their return by setting up infrastructures for drinking water, electricity, telecommunications, hospitals, dispensaries and schools.

Throughout the Lebanese war (1975 – 1990), localized wars often broke out, forcing the – usually Christian – population to flee. Waves of tens of thousands of displaced people reached Kesruan (a zone intensely populated by Maronites) from Chouf, Aley, Baabda, Bekaa. They left behind villages destroyed by Palestinian, Sunnite and Druze militias.

According to the World Bank, in 1995 there were around 800,000 displaced people in Lebanon. Analysts say the "wars" aimed to break inter-faith coexistence and to transform areas into mono-religious and mono-cultural ghettos. Fifteen years after the end of the war, only a small group of displaced people returned to their villages.

At a press conference held some days ago, Dr Mona Hammam of the UN Sustainable Human Development organization in Lebanon presented stages followed from 1994 up to the present day for the return of displaced people from the Lebanese mountains. She said the program has now passed from a phase of emergency aid to development projects, which include construction of schools, dispensaries, youth clubs, agricultural projects and cattle-breeding. The program caters for 156 family units.

International public opinion has often only taken note of the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon without paying heed to the country's internally displaced people.

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