Where’s the mechanism?

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, second right, heads a meeting in Bkirki, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. (The Daily Star/Maronite Patriarchate Bkerke, HO)

Lebanon’s Maronite bishops have issued a National Charter document that spells out the dangers facing the country and urges politicians to adhere to fundamental principles in order to avoid further paralysis and dysfunction.

While the document, unveiled Wednesday by Patriarch Beshara Rai, is being portrayed as “extraordinary,” it would in fact be difficult to find a politician who has disagreed with any of the major points in recent years. Items such as respecting constitutional deadlines, adhering to the Taif Accord and moving ahead with a host of other matters are all part and parcel of most politicians’ daily rhetoric.

Two things stand out when assessing Bkirki’s “extraordinary” stance. One is that the country lacks mechanisms of implementation. Policymakers and concerned groups around the world are capable of producing “road maps.” To the south of Lebanon, for example, people have been talking about a political road map for years, but until Israelis and Palestinians show real commitment to such a plan, it remains ink on paper.

Second, Lebanon’s Christian political community itself is in need of the kind of commitment to principles that Bkirki has outlined.

Wednesday’s distress call, about the need to put aside petty disputes and narrow calculations in favor of the higher national interest, should be addressed, first and foremost, to the parties that meet periodically with the patriarch under the rubric of this or that “gathering” of Christian politicians.

Nobody is disagreeing with the bishops, except when it comes to how to kick-start the process and ensure that it remains durable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 06, 2014, on page 7.




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