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FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
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Muslim-Christian summit warns against divisions
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BKIRKI: Religious figures at the Muslim-Christian summit have urged politicians to speed up the Cabinet’s formation to fend off regional challenges, and warned against growing internal divisions in Lebanon.

Reading the closing statement of the summit Thursday, the secretary-general of Christian-Muslim committee for dialogue Mohammad al-Sammak highlighted Lebanon’s need for a strong government and dialogue between its political leaders.

The statement raised nine points which were discussed during closed meetings that took place throughout the morning between religious leaders over the situation in Lebanon and the region, and of Christians living in Arab countries.

“[Those gathered] urged politicians responsible to form the new government sooner rather than later based on constitutional principles so that [the country] can play its role as the region is going through critical times,” Sammak said.

The gathering also warned against division in the country which would weaken Lebanon’s ability to face regional challenges, damaging its “genuine message” of coexistence.

“The Lebanese government is the source of strength for all Lebanese; citizens should in turn respect its institutions … political leaders should rise above their political differences,” Sammak said.

The summit also expressed commitment to dialogue to resolve domestic problems and Lebanon’s commitment not to interfere “directly or indirectly” in other countries’ internal affairs.

Other points focused on the need to reinforce a sense of belonging among Lebanese in political, cultural and social life. The statement urged Lebanon’s youth “to hold on to their land and preserve it for future generations.”

The summit’s statement also encouraged officials “to refer to constitutional institutions to solve any conflict and to depend on the Lebanese Army and legitimate security forces to preserve stability and security and fight organized terrorism.”

They leaders also emphasized the importance of solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland, in line with Lebanon’s policy against naturalization. They also called on the international community to place pressure on Israel to withdraw completely from all Lebanese territories.

Several religious figures had gathered for the summit Thursday to discuss external and internal challenges threatening Lebanon’s national unity and principles of coexistence.

The summit had been decided upon in April, when Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Qabbani and Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai agreed to hold a large-scale Muslim-Christian summit in the hopes of promoting inter-religious harmony and coexistence.

The summit was convened by Rai at his seat in Bkirki. Giving the opening speech, Rai highlighted the reasons for the summit.

“The first reason is the imbalance within our national unity and the emergence of sectarian strife as a result of conflicting political choices,” Rai said, adding that there was a need to strengthen Lebanon’s national pact of coexistence.

Rai also said that the current crises in many Arab countries were threatening Lebanon’s social fabric, and said Lebanon must set a precedent of inter-religious dialogue.

“Lebanon is an independent republic with an Arab identity and a sense of belonging and cooperates with Arab and foreign countries … without any tutelage or patronage from any of these countries,” Rai said during his speech. He called on the international community to name Lebanon as a “global forum of cultures.”

“[Lebanon] plays the role of a secular country that respects God and religious affiliations amongst its citizens as stipulated by Article Nine of the Constitution,” Rai added.

Religious leaders and representatives began arriving at Bkirki early Thursday. Included among them were the deputy president of the Higher Shiite Council, Abdel Amir Kabalan, Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I Keshishian, Roman Catholic Antioch Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoude, Roman Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV, Father Riad Jarjoura on behalf of the Evangelical Church in Lebanon and members of the Muslim-Christian national dialogue committee. Vatican Ambassador to Lebanon Bishop Gabriel Caccia arrived later Thursday.

 
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Beshara Rai / Bkirki
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