Lebanon News

Religious leaders call for unity at a time of Arab uprisings

Sheikh Hasan, Patriarch Rai, Mufti Qabbani, Sheikh Qabalan and the Melchite patriarch, Gregorius III Lahham. Mahmoud Kheir. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian and Muslim leaders called Tuesday for national unity in light of the difficult circumstances in Lebanon and the Arab world.

They also appealed to the Lebanese government to brush aside political differences among its members and address urgent national and socio-economic issues. The religious leaders’ appeal came in a statement issued following deliberations during a one-day Muslim-Christian spiritual summit held at the headquarters of the Maronite Archdiocese in Beirut.

The meeting was called by Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Mattar on the occasion of Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s pastoral visit to the Maronite Archdiocese.

The summit was also attended by Beirut Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audeh, Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios Lahham III, Sheikh Amin Kurdi representing the Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani who is recovering from a surgery, Jaafarite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan representing the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan, Druze religious leader Sheikh Naim Hasan and representatives from other minority Christian and Muslim communities.

The statement said the conference was “a friendly meeting reflecting the image of Lebanon we want, so that it can serve as an example of bringing religions together in the region ... and called on officials in Lebanon to close ranks for the sake of Lebanon’s peace, stability and unity of its sons.”

“We call for a united position and a united national discourse at a time when Lebanon and the Arab region are passing through difficult and complicated circumstances,” said the statement released by the secretariat-general of the Beirut Maronite Archdiocese.

The leaders also appealed to the Lebanese government to overcome differences among its members by reaching agreement on divisive issues based on constitutional rules, in order to serve the overarching national interest and deal with the urgent national, administrative, social and economic issues which all Lebanese are suffering, according to the statement.

“They appealed to the Lebanese in general, and to [government] officials in particular, to uphold Lebanon’s mission as a country of common coexistence that respects the dignity of man, his rights and interests,” the statement said.

It added that the religious leaders urged rival political parties to brush aside “divisions and differences that obstruct the march of the state and wise governance.”

The request came as Lebanon was thrust into a Cabinet crisis last week after Prime Minister Najib Mikati abruptly ended a Cabinet session following sharp differences with ministers from MP Michel Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc over the issue of civil service appointments.

Aoun’s ministers rejected Mikati’s proposed names for appointments to the Higher Disciplinary Committee.

Mikati has implicitly accused Aoun’s ministers of obstructing the Cabinet’s work, saying he will not allow anyone to undermine the prime minister’s prerogatives.

Mikati has since said that he will not resume Cabinet sessions before agreement is reached on a formula to make the government productive.

Referring to the Arab Spring popular uprisings that have so far led to the overthrow of leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, the spiritual summit appealed to “leaders of Arab states to resort to wisdom, dialogue and renunciation of violence in order to achieve the required internal reforms ... and play a role in establishing peace and justice in the region.”

The leaders appealed to the international community to play its role in facilitating these goals.

Last year, Rai hosted two meetings of top Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders at the Maronite patriarchate in Bkirki, north of Beirut, with the aim of defusing political and sectarian tensions in the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 08, 2012, on page 4.




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