BEIRUT: Cardinal Beshara Rai called Sunday for an end to the increasing violence in neighboring Syria through peaceful negotiations and urged states backing and opposing President Bashar Assad to halt their military and monetary support to the warring parties.
“We appeal to the officials of the states which are fighting in Syria that by providing funds and weapons to both the regime and the opposition – a phenomena that has become obvious – to cease such negative actions and incitement,” said Rai during his Sunday sermon at Bkirki.
The leader of the Maronite Church blamed these states for the violence and destruction in Lebanon’s neighbor which the U.N. estimates has claimed the lives of 60,000.
“These states are themselves committing murder and destruction and attacks against innocent citizens and history will hold them responsible for that,” Rai said.
The United States, Europe and Arab Gulf states have voiced support for the opposition in Syria while Russia, China and Iran remain fervent supporters of the embattled leader.
Rai criticized the use weapons as an act of “cowardice” while lauding as “heroic” attempts to end the crisis through peaceful means.
“The bullying and use of weapons without [inhibition] is a cowardly act,” he said.
“However, to sit at the negotiating table and find solutions to the conflict through dialogue and reconciliation is heroic,” he added.
The cardinal also called on Lebanon’s political rivals, both who support and oppose Assad, not to wager on the developments in Syria, saying this was bringing public life to a standstill.
“Lebanon's politicians should also stop their wagering on the developments in Syria because they are paralyzing public life and patriotic decisions, including the new electoral law,” he said.
Lebanon’s politicians have been divided over the crisis in Syria. While the March 14-led opposition strongly supports the uprising against Assad, the Hezbollah-led March 8 backs the embattled leader.
Rai also called Sunday for supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon at the social and material levels and said the Lebanese should show solidarity of a humanitarian nature with the displaced.
He also called on the Lebanese to provide them with services and financial support they needed.
Last week, Rai said Lebanon could not cope with the influx of refugees and said they should be spread out in other Arab countries and in safe areas in Syria.
On Saturday, Syria’s Ambassador Ali Abdel Karim Ali urged Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return to their home country as some places remained secure and stable.
Lebanon has over 200,000 Syrian refugees, according to Social Affairs Minister Wael Abou Faour.