10/02/2006, 00.00
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Sfeir: Lebanon's future weighed down by Christian divisions and Hezbollah demands

by Youssef Hourany

The problem of Christians "displaced" in 1983 from the Mountain of Lebanon has become topical, with Aoun's charges against Joumblatt and Geagea and the replies of the leaders of the Druze and the Lebanese Forces.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Prevalent division among Christians, the problem of the return of "displaced people" to the Mountain of Lebanon and the statements of Hezbollah about its right to press ahead with the struggle until complete Israeli withdrawal from every corner of national territory. These are issues that are worrying the Country of the Cedars these days. In this scenario, anticipation is rife for the monthly meeting of the Maronite bishops in Bkerke, to be chaired by the Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir on Wednesday. Stands should be taken on current matters like interfaith dialogue, topical in this month of Ramadan, especially after the harsh criticism levelled last month against the "misunderstanding" of the conference held by Benedict XVI during his meeting with the academic world on 12 September.

In a meeting with AsiaNews, Cardinal Sfeir said: "Lebanon is living through a very critical time, full of questions about its political future and the future of Christian communities. In the light of rapid developments of the situation, we expect a comprehensive response from the international community, capable of clarifying current prospects, so as to enable citizens to remain in their country despite economic and political difficulties." Meeting a group of leaders from political and religious circles, Cardinal Sfeir denounced "the danger threatening the Christian presence in Lebanon because of the division prevailing within Christian communities. No heed is paid to appeals by religious leaders and no notice is taken of the existence of a 1997 Apostolic Exhortation that could be summarized as an appeal for the reconstruction of the Christian social fabric." The patriarch discussed the theme of freedom with his guests, indicating it as a very precious legacy of John Paul II, and he slammed current trends of thought that were destroying freedom with the shadow of "fanaticism, fundamentalism and violence".

For his part, the Maronite Archbishop of Jbeil, Mgr Bechara Rai, expressed his concern and his "deep sadness" about the latest declarations of the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, "who continues to uphold their right to have arms, while Christians continue to endure the tragic consequences of the conflict between Israel and the Party of God".

The concerns of the patriarch were shared by General Michel Aoun. Talking to AsiaNews, he reiterated his firm condemnation of those that "presume to be the true representatives of Christians" (an indirect reference to the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea), indicating the need to "weave the social fabric of Lebanese society" and expressing his concern about the crisis destroying the country, especially the Christian community.

General Aoun expressed support for the cause of the displaced people, calling on the Druze leader Walid Joumblatt and the commander of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea to find the right means to facilitate their return to their villages. He holds these men, who have become allies, responsible for the exodus of Christians from the Mountain in 1983.

Aoun yesterday responded to Joumblatt in a meeting at Moukhtara to launch reconciliation between Druze and Christians in the region of the Mountain. For his part, the head of the Lebanese Forces sent a message to the meeting which gathered 30,000 participants in Zahle in Bekaa. He affirmed the willingness of his movement to lead Christians to real state participation, to having a future in which they will no longer fear for their children, and to resume their role in the forefront of cultural, intellectual and political levels.

Today too, the Commander of the Lebanese army, General Michel Souleiman presided over a ceremony for the return, after 34 years, of the Lebanese flag on the famous hill "Al Labbouna", in the south of the country. The General emphasized the significance of this event coinciding with the near-total withdrawal of Israeli troops, and expressed his desire to see Israel keep its promises, with the withdrawal from as yet occupied hills and from Sheeba Farms. He also reiterated the need to work together to reinforce national unity that constitutes the fundamental pillar for the rebirth of country that is "exemplary" in the region.

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See also
Lebanon looks to Patriarch Sfeir during rough patch
Patriarch Sfeir criticises Syrian-inspired electoral law
Joumblatt: Church bells will ring again in three villages on Mountain
Patriarch Sfeir's pain over Christian divisions
The new proportional election law brings stability to Lebanon
15/06/2017 16:16


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