BEIRUT: Christian activists implored the state to curb the misuse of Christian land Monday, pointing to another spate of alleged illegally constructed residences in a Baalbek village, saying such actions endangered the delicate demographic balance in the country.
Talal al-Doueihy, with the “Lebanese Land – Our Land Movement,” said about 85 million square meters of land in the Christian village of Al-Qaa had been appropriated by Muslims to build suburban housing complexes to rent out. Some of the lands were initially sold for agricultural, not residential, use.
He called on Christian leaders in the country, including Kataeb party head Amin Gemayel, Free Patriotic Movement head Gen. Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea and Patriarch Beshara Rai to take action on the issue.
He described the procuring of the lands by Muslims as “aggressions.”
“I hold the state authorities responsible for being lenient and not curbing these aggressions and for not applying the law firmly,” he said at a conference at the Press Club in Furn al-Shubbak.
Doueihy and Bashir Matar, a lawyer living in Al-Qaa, both said the land was being used by Sunnis from the village of Arsal, Shiites from Hermel and Syrian refugees to build homes.
Matar held up a map of Al-Qaa to point out locations where the lands were being allegedly misused by Muslims and Bedouin communities. In the area of Wadi al-Khanzir, for instance, Matar said the Bedouins had built hundreds of residential quarters, schools and a mosque.
“The state authorities have given them licenses and provided them with electricity and water, built roads for them, despite the fact that this is completely illegal,” Matar said, adding that Christians were still the rightful owners of the land.
“So we are holding the judiciary, the state authorities and all relevant ministries responsible for this situation,” he said, producing photocopies of complaint letters he had sent to relevant authorities.
“Some lands were sold, but for agricultural purposes ... But we were surprised to later find that buildings were being constructed on the land.”
“We don’t want to wake up 10 years from now to find 2,000 houses in the village inhabited by Sunnis and Shiites,” he added.
Doueihy expressed concern that the influx of Syrians to the country due to the neighboring war would tip the demographic balance in the country and marginalize the Christians. He considered the selling of land a trend that would eventually lead to strife.
The incidents in Al-Qaa follow similar land-related spats across the country. In the Zghorta village of Alma last week, majority Christian residents complained that Muslims from neighboring Arab al-Fuar were constructing unlicensed buildings on their land.