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The Daily Star
MONDAY, 21 APR 2014
12:45 AM Beirut time
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Christian, Muslim leaders call for bolstering national unity
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BEIRUT: A gathering of Lebanese Christian and Muslim religious leaders at Bkirki called for the bolstering of national unity and expressed sorrow over the political divisions in the country.

“The gatherers discussed the situation in Lebanon and stressed the need to bolster national unity, which is based on coexistence between Muslims and Christians, to protect from the effects of the events in the region on Lebanon,” a statement following the meeting at Bkirki said.

“We reject discrimination and strife, and stress the main Lebanese decision to remain together in an entity that is their final homeland, independent and united,” the statement added.

Participants at the event, which coincides with Annunciation Day, included Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, Druze religious leader Sheikh Naim Hasan, Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios Lahham III and Greek Orthodox Bishop Elias Audi.

The statement said the participants expressed their sorrow over the political divisions in the country, adding that Lebanon could not confront the divisions except through dialogue on matters of dispute.

They also expressed their support of the measures taken by the state to protect citizens, and “called on them to take further steps.”

Turning to the subject of developments in the region, the participants stressed the right of all Arab peoples to make their choices but expressed concern should reforms take a protracted amount of time.

“The gatherers discussed the transformations in the region that has entered a new phase in its history that has led to the toppling of political regimes. They stressed the right of the people to make their own choices but expressed concern about what could happen during the period in which there is a positive quest to bring in the state of law, justice, reforms to the citizenry in these communities,” a statement following the meeting at Bkirki said.

Turning to Lebanon, the participants called for a strengthening of national unity “that is based on coexistence between Muslims and Christians.

The participants also expressed their condemnation of the ongoing violence in Syria and their “grief over the victims who fall every day. They prayed to God to preserve security there and [the country’s] unity and peace.”

They also expressed their deep sorrow over the “cycle of violence and repeated explosions in Iraq, where many innocent lives are lost every day and hoped this sisterly country would regain its internal unity in its variety.”

The conditions in Palestine were also a topic of discussions, and the attendees denounced what the Palestinian people had to face in terms of “oppression and continuous attacks on lives, religious sites, property and called on the international community to end the Israeli occupation and to recognize the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital and that all international resolutions, particularly the ones dealing with the Palestinian right to return, be implemented.”

The statement concluded by saying the participants expressed their readiness to work toward hosting a Christian-Muslim spiritual gathering at the Arab level which would aim to strengthen Christian-Muslim coexistence.”

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