TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Islamic and Christian religious authorities in north Lebanon gathered Tuesday at Dar al-Fatwa in Tripoli to call for the implementation of development projects in the beleaguered city, amid accusations from the city’s Alawite sect that they were being purposefully excluded.
Speaking on behalf of those gathered, Maronite Bishop of Tripoli Georges Abou Jaoudeh pointed to six main points that all agreed on, including the need to implement special development projects, tackle unemployment and improve living conditions.
Abou Jaoudeh also urged local actors to censor visual media and billboard advertising to ensure they were ethical and asked politicians to use respectful language in their political discourse. He also highlighted possible reforms in the education system, including more emphasis on public behavior in curriculums and mandatory religious classes in school.
Those attending stressed the diverse religious identity of Tripoli and thanked political and security figures for putting an end to the recent bouts of violence, calling for the recent security crackdown to be complemented by a socio-economic rejuvenation plan.
The gathering, which was held at the invitation of Malek al-Shaar - mufti of Tripoli and north Lebanon, was attended religious clerks representing various Christian and Muslim groups from the region.
Notable by their absence, however, were any representatives from the Alawite sect.
The head of the Islamic Alawite Council, Sheikh Assad Assi, released a statement Tuesday condemning his sect’s exclusion from the meeting.
Assi accused Shaar of kowtowing to a political decision that he says aims to sideline the northern city’s Alawite community, calling it the “recent elimination war against the ... Alawite sect,” adding that the mufti had made the wrong decision.
Tripoli has been the stage for decades of sectarian and political clashes between two neighborhoods that have intensified since the start of the Syrian civil war. Fighting between the largely Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh and the predominantly Alawite Jabal Mohsen has resulted in economic stupor and numerous causalities.
The clashes finally ended after a security plan was implemented by the Lebanese Army earlier this year.