BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai laid out a road map Wednesday to guide Lebanon through a coming “existential crisis,” stressing the need for a timely election of a new president and Muslim-Christian partnership in running the country.
Rai said that electing a new president on time was a necessary condition for a strong state and warned that power-hungry politicians implicating Lebanon in regional conflicts were leading the country into the abyss.
Reading a National Charter drafted by the Maronite Church as a road map for what he described as a critical stage in the history of Lebanon and the region, the Maronite leader also stressed the need for adherence to the three principles upon which the country was established: coexistence, the National Pact and Muslim-Christian partnership.
“Electing a new president as a new head of state within the constitutional deadline is not debatable and it is a prerequisite condition because its absence means an absence of the state and its future,” Rai said during a televised news conference.
Rai also outlined what he said were growing concerns of the Lebanese, saying the Maronite Church could not remain quiet as the country neared an “existential crisis.”
“The Lebanese should recognize that a national plan cannot be applied unless it produces a just, productive and capable state or else it will threaten the Lebanese entity,” Rai said.
“Those adopting self-security measures justify them by [highlighting] the inability of the state as well the people’s right to self-defense. This leads to a scenario wherein the strongest party imposes its will on others and the other parties seek empowerment through foreign sides,” he said.
Rai added that such a scenario meant Lebanon was being dragged into the “war of axes” and experiencing an unprecedented, “dangerous political paralysis.”
“This is our biggest concern, and so we warn the Lebanese, particularly officials, against continuing to exclude others, remaining obstinate and power hungry, because that will only drive Lebanon to the abyss.”
Rai warned some of the consequences of disrupting state institutions were the inability to draft a new electoral law and form a government as well as “fears of a vacuum in the presidential post.”
The patriarch also those criticized involving Lebanon in the matters of neighboring states without taking into consideration the repercussions for the country, reiterating his call for the adoption of “positive neutrality” toward turmoil in the region.
“For a neutral Lebanon to represent its [peaceful] message it should be strong enough to defend itself ... and it should be at a distance from regional conflicts as stipulated in the Baabda Declaration,” he added.
The country, Rai said, needed foundations on which a better future for the Lebanese could be built, saying officials should recognize the country’s national interest and resume National Dialogue sessions in order to resolve the current crisis.
The patriarch also called for an end to the crisis in Syria through a national dialogue in which Syrians could decide their own fate.
“A speedy resolution to the crisis and the return of refugees to their homes are vital Lebanese interests.”