03/05/2020, 14.19
LEBANON
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Maronite patriarchate promotes a 'national initiative' dedicated to young people

by Fady Noun

The plan is a response to young people’s aspirations for a dignified political, economic, social and cultural life. Set for the feast day of the Annunciation on 25 March, its inspiration comes from Pope Francis and the Synod on young people. The Church stands with the grassroots movement against corruption and poor governance, which has a religious dimension linked to Lent.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Maronite Church is currently finalising a document that will serve as the basis for a "national initiative" aimed at young people, said an informed Church source yesterday, following the extension of the monthly meeting of the Assembly of Maronite Bishops, at the Maronite Patriarchal headquarters in Bkerké.

On this occasion, the Church reiterated its main political and social options. Its latest initiative is a response to the aspirations of young Lebanese for a political, economic, social and cultural life worthy of its name. Its launch is on 25 March, the feast day of the Annunciation, a national Islamic-Christian statutory holiday.

The plan is reportedly inspired by the initiative Pope Francis undertook the day after the Synod on Young People and the apostolic exhortation that followed (2018-2019). It tries to meet the challenges of renewed democratic life in Lebanon, in light of all the obstacles it faces, such as clientelism, corruption, narrow confessionalism, poor governance and other issues that emerged from last October’s grassroots unrest, which the Maronite Church has welcomed, except for its occasional acts of violence.

This initiative is meant to be interactive, highlighting a vision of the future that nurtures hope in young people about Lebanon’s future, far from the dejection and temptation to give up that some young people feel, discouraged by the slow pace of the desired changes and the attempts to stifle or hijack last October’s social and ethical outburst. Logically, the initiative is expected to echo many of the concerns that young people have, especially Christians, like the hardships of everyday life, the crisis of values, the economy’s downfall, the costs of education, the lack of jobs, the temptation to let go and emigrate, etc.

No to "ideological colonisation"

The Maronite Church’s appeal ostensibly includes a religious dimension connected to Lent. The Church urges young Christians to take advantage of this period to deepen their faith and renew their commitment to serve their Churches and Lebanon, clearly conscious that they are witnesses to the risen Christ.

The initiative takes up some of the main points found in the 2019 papal exhortation, reminding young people that they are "the now of God", that they must resist the "ideological colonisation" that marks the irruption of modernity in their daily life and be wary of “the mechanisms of consumption and distraction” whereby “everyone is born as an original, but many people end up dying as photocopies”.

When unrest broke out on 17 October, Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi quickly sided with the grassroots protest movement, urging the authorities to "listen to the demands of the people," not "condescendingly despise the peaceful and civilised protesters" and not try to "discredit them or suspect them of treason”. In a homily delivered ten days after the start of strife, before leaders of Free Patriotic Movement, the head of the Maronite Church described the popular protests as “a positive reformist revolution” and spoke of a “State of inclusive citizenship and diversity.”

We are in a democracy, the patriarch said, in a frank reference to the "red lines" drawn at the time by the head of Hezbollah in the face of nation-wide unrest. “We are a democratic, not dictatorial country,” he said. Lebanon is “a pluralistic nation, not one that is totalitarian and communitarian. Nobody has the right to claim the voice of the people for themselves and impose their vision of things and will on others”.

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