BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers Saturday urged the international community to take immediate action to protect Christians in Iraq’s Mosul and put an end to Israel’s brutal aggression against civilians in Gaza, stressing on Arab and Muslim unity in the face of rising extremism.
In a rare session for lawmakers -- who have been at loggerheads over attending Parliament sessions altogether -- Speaker Nabih Berri convened a meeting in the General Assembly to express Lebanon’s solidarity with Gaza and Christians in Iraq.
The exceptional session witnessed brief speeches by lawmakers representing their parliamentary blocs, highlighting engrained divisions among political groups even when they come together for a single cause.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam took advantage of the afternoon session to reflect on his country’s own problems -- primarily its ailing institutions -- calling on lawmakers to end the vacuum in the presidency, “the only Christian, governing post in the region.”
"I call on all political and parliamentary forces to fill the vacuum in the presidency and elect a new president, who is the only Christian president in the Arab world,” he said.
“We are not neutral when it comes to the aggression faced by the Palestinian people and we announced our full solidarity with them ... and we ask the United Nations to end its shortfall and the series of wars on Gaza that contradicts all international resolutions."
"In Lebanon ... we seek sectarian diversity because it is the only thing that characterizes Lebanon with its uniqueness.”
At the end of the two-hour session, the speaker stood and read the final statement, which expressed solidarity with Gaza and its resistance against “Israel crimes that did not even spare women, children and the elderly; a blatant violation against the right of life.”
“The Lebanese Parliament demands the release of Palestinian prisoners, particularly Speaker Aziz Douek and Marwan Barghouti ... and demands quick measures to put Israeli government officials on trial as war criminals.”
“The Parliament also asks for the establishment of a Higher Arab Council to rebuild Gaza and contribute to construction efforts,” the statement read.
While deploring ISIS action against Christians, Berri said Lebanon’s Parliament demanded the U.N. Security Council put an end to this "organized crime," and return those who were forced to flee.
He also called on the Security Council and Muslim religious institutions to swiftly work on curbing the rise of radical groups.
The first to speak was Head of the Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun who questioned the international silence and inaction with regards to discrimination against Christians in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and events in Gaza, urging the U.N. Security Council to protect the minority group and keep them in their land.
“Where is the Security Council and the powers with their vetoes? Gaza children follow those of Qana and Jerusalem and the sword remains the same,” Aoun said.
“Where are the countries that have held up the slogan of human rights from the forced migration of Christians and the destruction of churches? Will their powerful intelligence tell us who is funding those radical groups killing in the name of religion?”
“We see a conspiracy in this silence. This is a war of eradication and silence is merely a crime against humanity.”
“We ask the U.N. Security Council to establish a safe zone for Iraqi Christians so that they would remain in their land and prevent their migration ... and end the siege on Gaza.”
Future bloc head MP Fouad Siniora also took the podium and called for an “Islamic renaissance” and cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the region to confront the rising phenomenon of extremism.
“We should create solidarity between Christians and Muslims to face radicalism regardless of the price and the sacrifices ... such extremism dismantles societies and countries and leaves us hostage to oppressors,” Siniora said.
“We should also work on an Islamic renaissance that would offer a moderate vision and thinking of Islam that would deal a heavy blow to extremist ideologies ... and reestablish religious institutions that could, along with families, play a role in teaching openness.”
The former prime minister also said Arab countries must work to build sound governing systems that would offer their citizens “justice and rule of law,” commending Lebanon’s own National Pact of power-sharing.
“We need to end this deadly division between us ... we need to recognize the need to end interference in regional issues in Syria and Iraq, which only involved Lebanese and opened doors of deep disputes.”
“Our only salvation lies within the state and its institutions rather than militias.”
Speaking on behalf of Hezbollah, Loyalty to the Resistance MP Ali Fayyad said the Israel remained a threat not only to Palestinians but also to Lebanon, saying the resistance group would remain committed to its role against the Jewish state.
“This Israeli threat still exists against Lebanon and Israel can at any time destroy houses and hospitals just like it’s doing in Gaza,” he said, praising the resistance for changing the rules of the engagement in their favor in its conflict with Israel.
“We call on all Lebanese and Arab forces to unite in the face of two dangers: Israel and ISIS ... regardless of our differences because our political disputes fade when faced with these two dangers.”
“We were and we shall remain, where we can, committed to our role in defending the Arab community ... while we are also committed to partnership with our Christian brethren, the sons of this land and the contributors of its culture and heritage.”