BEIRUT: Christians and Muslims gathered for a spiritual summit in Lebanon on Tuesday amid concerns about a growing sectarian divide in the country’s politics.

The crisis escalated after two aides to Minister of the Displaced Saleh Al-Gharib were killed on June 30 in Mount Lebanon. Al-Gharib is a member of the predominantly Druze-supported Lebanese Democratic Party, which is allied with the Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The aids were shot and killed following protests by supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party, which also draws its support mostly from the Druze community, against a visit by FPM leader Gebran Bassil to a Druze-majority area.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri suspended Council of Ministers meetings to focus on finding a peaceful resolution to a crisis that has exposed renewed divisions between the political forces in power.

The main issue relates to the political representation of a dwindling, but still significant, number of Christians.

Tuesday’s spiritual summit, at the Druze Dar Al-Muwahhidin, concluded that “the national unity that emerged among the Lebanese spiritual communities based on the (1989) Taif Agreement (which ended the Lebanese Civil War) constitutes the basis and guarantor of the building of Lebanon. Any abuse of coexistence, especially in the mountain, is an insult to Lebanon’s ideals and mission.”

The participants called for “greater awareness and national solidarity to overcome the risks that are compounded by the projects and plans aimed at redrawing the map of the region.” They stressed the “urgent need” for the government to bring about “stability and economic advancement,” and find “a suitable and quick solution to the political hurdle the country is going through.”

Raising the sectarian issue under provocative and fanatical headlines and claiming to protect the rights of Christians is intended to target the Taif Agreement, which harms stability and restores the atmosphere of civil war that the Lebanese have forgotten. A return to pre-Taif means a return to war.

Khaled Kabbani, Former minister

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdullatif Durian spoke at the summit of a need to find “solutions to the crises in line with the rules of national unity and coexistence and through adherence to the constitution and Taif.”

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MP Henri Helou said the conclusions reached by the summit represent “the ceiling under which all positions must be kept, and a road map out of the crisis.”

Walid Ghayyad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate, said: “The findings of the spiritual summit are not enough; political officials are required to translate this talk into national positions…Lebanon is not governed by one group; there is a need for balance and respect for each other.”

He questioned whether the only solution to the crisis should be “for Christians to accept things as they are and abandon their role?” He added: “In some positions in the state, Christians do not exceed 10 percent compared to 90 percent for Muslims. There is a tug of war. The subject requires impartiality. It is true that the issue has been there for a long time but it has been exacerbated recently and the risks are increasing.”

Khaled Kabbani, a former minister and member of the Constitutional Council, who attended the summit, said: “All the talk during the closed meeting of the summit stressed the need for moderation and understanding and the desire of everyone to overcome the crisis.

“Raising the sectarian issue under provocative and fanatical headlines and claiming to protect the rights of Christians is intended to target the Taif Agreement, which harms stability and restores the atmosphere of civil war that the Lebanese have forgotten. A return to pre-Taif means a return to war.”



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