03/24/2016, 14.37
LEBANON
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Tripoli renames avenues and roads in honour of four important Maronite bishops

by Fady Noun

The city’s municipal council responded positively to Mgr Aboujaoude’s proposal. For the prelate, Christians are "an integral part of the social fabric of Tripoli”. The renaming is a sign of friendly relations between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon’s northern capital. The prelate is working on ensuring Christian representation in the next elections.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Tripoli’s Municipal Council has decided to rename four of the city’s avenues and streets after Maronite bishops who left their mark on Lebanon’s northern capital. A request to this effect came from the city’s Maronite bishop, Mgr Georges Aboujaoude.

The four bishops to be honoured are: Antoine Abed, who led an austere life, and whose name alone struck fear in young and old alike; Antoine Joubeir, a true missionary who distinguished himself with youth organisations; Gabriel Toubia, a model servant at St Michael Cathedral; and Fouad el-Hage, Mgr Aboujaoude’s predecessor, who also served as president of Caritas Internationalis.

Speaking to L'Orient-Le Jour, Mgr Aboujaoude (pictured) said that on his own initiative he thanked Tripoli Mayor Amer Al Rafhi for the renaming, noting that Christians in general and Maronites in particular "are part of the social fabric of Tripoli" and that their number, which has dropped during the war years, "does not prevent them from being one of the city’s components."

Only about 400 families are left of Tripoli’s old Maronite community, the bishop said, against three times as many Christian Orthodox, spread across the diocese’s five parishes: Central Tripoli, Quobbe, Tabbaneh, Zahrieh and Mina.

All the parishes are very active and thrive in an atmosphere "of entente cordiale" between Islam and Christianity, he explained. One of his greatest achievements is the dynamic 160-member scout group.

The Church of St. Michael, in Zahrieh, and the nearby three-storey presbytery, are being restored, the bishop said. This is "a sign of renewal and reconciliation of social life, after the Army’s operation during the Bab al-Tabbaneh–Jabal Mohsen conflict (between Sunnis and Alawis], which restored calm to these hot areas".

The bishop is currently working on ensuring representation for Tripoli’s Christian communities in the upcoming municipal elections. “Two Orthodox and Maronite now sit in the city council, but we want to strengthen this presence,” the prelate said.

High unemployment

Sadly, youth unemployment remains a major issue. Many young people continue to leave the city in search for work.

“Despite some signs of recovery with the opening of some fast-food restaurants, Tripoli is on the verge of economic collapse,” Mgr Aboujaoude said.

With a touch of nostalgia and longing, the bishop remembers the happy days when wood (Ghandour), soft drinks, and textile (Arida) companies ran plants. Once noisy with machines, they are now “overrun by rats.”

Similarly, the bishop wonders why Tripoli’s oil refineries, which once employed several hundreds of people, now lie idle. Still, he is happy to see hundreds of new jobs created by a local mill, which hired Christians and Muslims without discriminating anyone.

Lastly, Mgr Aboujaoude, who is on good terms with Tripoli Mufti Sheikh Malek Chaar, was happy to see City Hall participate in handing out Christmas gifts. However, he would like to see Christian communities get the same level of funding as Muslims do for al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

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