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Muslims, Christians have positive roles in Arab Spring: Rai
Rai attends the iftar banquet in Jouma. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)
Rai attends the iftar banquet in Jouma. (The Daily Star/Antoine Amrieh)
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BEIRUT: During a visit to Akkar, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Christians and Muslims have an important and positive role to play in the developments resulting from the Arab Spring.

“My Muslim and Christian brothers, we will have a role to play in the Arab Spring ... especially with our Syrian brothers who are being welcomed [in Akkar] after fleeing hell and clashes,” Rai said Wednesday evening during an iftar banquet hosted by the Future Movement in the town of Jouma.

On the fourth and final day of his visit to north Lebanon, Rai praised all individuals and organizations who have been providing humanitarian assistance to fleeing Syrian refugees.

The patriarch also praised Akkar residents for their ability to coexist as Christians and Muslims. “Akkar is known historically for its coexistence. This is why I wanted to spend four days on this land to stress this coexistence,” said Rai in a speech.

The iftar banquet hosted by the Future Movement took place in Gracias Restaurant in Jouma and was attended by MPs Khaled Daher, Hadi Hobeish, Khaled Zahraman, Khodr Habib, Nidal Tohme and a number of other political and religious figures from the area.

Commenting on recent developments in the country Thursday, Rai said that the recent spate of kidnappings in Lebanon is not part of the Lebanese culture.

“What is going on in Lebanon is strange to this blessed land,” said Rai Wednesday, in reference to the kidnappings of foreigners in Lebanon by armed men in retaliation for the abducted of a Lebanese man in Damascus.

Rai’s comments came during a mass at a church in Akkar’s Shtaha, one of his last stops before leaving the northern governorate.

Rai also visited the towns of Beit Mlat, Deir Janin, al-Hed, Safinat Drayb and al-Tlayl.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2012, on page 4.
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