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Geagea: Christians should support Syria uprising
LF leader Samir Geagea heads the "Christians in Lebanon and Middle East: Challenges and Prospects" meeting at the LF party headquarters in Maarab, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
LF leader Samir Geagea heads the "Christians in Lebanon and Middle East: Challenges and Prospects" meeting at the LF party headquarters in Maarab, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. (The Daily Star/Aldo Ayoub, HO)
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BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Friday criticized portrayals of the Syrian crisis as a war targeting Christians and said they should continue to support the uprising in Lebanon’s neighbor.

“There is some chaos in the Syrian revolution, but this does not mean that it is not a democratic revolution for the sake of [achieving] a democratic state in Syria,” Geagea said during a conference titled “The Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East: Challenges and Prospects.”

“We as Christians cannot be but with the Syrian revolution,” he said.

Geagea accused his Christian opponents in Lebanon of exploiting events in the Syrian town of Maaloula for the good of President Bashar Assad. Indeed, the war in Syria has divided Christians to some extent, as a number of their leaders – political and religious – have been quite vocal about Christian vulnerability in Lebanon and Syria.

“We realized that some figures or Lebanese Christian groups, whenever something happens in Maaloula, try to portray the conflict in Syria as anti-Christian and this is a big hoax,” he said.

Geagea said this scheme aimed at portraying Assad as the protector of minorities “in an effort make sure the regime stays in power.”

“As Christians, we are in the heart of the fabric of the Levant. We are not foreign subjects or the remnants of the crusaders,” he said.

“Most of the Syrian cities were nearly destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and those who are addressing the Christian issue in Syria have turned a blind eye to this. In my opinion, what happened in Maaloula is similar to what happened in Homs, Aleppo and Deraa,” he said.

Geagea called the Arab Spring a natural development in history and called on Christians to remain a part of societies in the Levant.

During the “Christian Gathering of the Levant,” a conference held in Beirut last month, MP Michel Aoun, head of the Change and Reform bloc, said Arab governments were responsible for protecting Christians in the region against Salafist movements.

LF representatives did not attend the November conference, which emphasized the need for unity in the wake of the threat posed by extremist groups across the region.

Separate from last month’s conference, the Orthodox Gathering has also warned that “indifference had led to the marginalization of the Orthodox law.” They also called on the world to work on reaching peace in Syria, help stop attacks on Christian institutions and double efforts to free two kidnapped bishops and the Maaloula nuns.

The head of the gathering, Michel Tueni, made the comments during a seminar addressing the sale of lands owned by Christians. Tueni also called on the Lebanese government protect the rights of Christians. He emphasized the need for a new Cabinet and electoral law that would safeguard the rights of the religion so that “huge [government] vacuum would not engulf the Lebanese.”

Head of the Lebanese orthodox council Robert Abiad spoke Friday with Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasipkin and asked him to work toward releasing the nuns of the Maaloula monastery and the bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi.

“The Arab Syrian Republic is one of the countries targeted by fire, blood and destruction, and the Christians are paying the price without being involved or aligned with any part in the struggle,” Abiad said.

Abiad said Russia – a major ally of the Assad regime – was the only country that defends peace and justice, especially when it comes to protecting the Christian faith.

“We ask Russia for swift and effective intervention and to pressure the relevant parties to ensure the safety of the nuns.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 21, 2013, on page 2.
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