The total curfew still in force to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the country, will not have dissuaded a few thousand Lebanese from taking the road to Bkerké, Saturday February 27, where the headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchate is located, in 25 km north of Beirut. They were responding to a call relayed on social networks to support the approach of the head of the Maronite Church, Mgr Béchara Raï, who has been demanding for several weeks that the Lebanese crisis be resolved within the framework of an international conference sponsored by the Nations. united.
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An appeal rejected by the Shiite Hezbollah which denounces the will of Bkerké ” to internationalize “The Lebanese crisis, believing that this would open the door” foreign interference “, Or even” to an occupation “. The Free Patriotic Current (the party of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Editor’s note), which has the largest Christian bloc in Parliament, is also opposed, arguing for internal dialogue.
“Neutrality, sovereignty, stability”
At midday, convoys of cars from which issued patriotic songs at full volume gathered on the north coast of Beirut. If the majority of the participants waved Lebanese flags, others, quite numerous, clearly displayed their political options, proudly displaying the white flag with a cedar ringed in red of the Lebanese Forces, the Christian party of Samir Geagea. In the crowd, many people wore portraits of Patriarch Rai, but also of his predecessor, Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who died in May 2019.
In the courtyard of the Patriarchate of Bkerké, a giant banner hanging on the facade of the basilica sets the tone. “ Neutrality, sovereignty, stability », A triptych which sums up the positions taken by the Maronite prelate to extract Lebanon from the multiple crises – political, economic and social – in which it has been sinking for more than a year and a half.
Coming with his wife and children, Charbel, in his forties, holds up with one hand a portrait of Bishop Raï, with the other, the yellow and white flag of the Vatican. ” We have come to support the initiative of our patriarch, today he is the only one who can save Lebanon from the clutches of Iran », He declares, while he wears a massive bevelled cross around his neck, a sign of his membership of the Lebanese Forces.
Addressing the Lebanese who came to support him, Bishop Béchara Raï did not mince his words, from a window of the Patriarchate. Sometimes interrupted loudly by the crowd shouting ” Thawra! “(Revolution in Arabic, Editor’s note), ” Iran outside ” or ” Terrorist Hezbollah “, The prelate denounced a” coup d’etat in all its aspects “, Reiterating the need for an international conference under the aegis of the UN,” failure to respect neutrality (being) the sole cause of all the crises and wars the country has gone through “.
In a very virulent speech, Mgr Raï also criticized the political leaders for their inaction and their inability to ” fix current issues », While the country is still without a government after the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab on August 10, 2020, in the wake of the deadly double explosion in the port of Beirut. Placing himself alongside the Lebanese, he ordered them to ” do not be silent ” To free “ the state of all those who paralyze its institutions “.
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For the Maronite prelate, the only solution therefore consists in ” assert the stability and identity of Lebanon, the sovereignty of its borders, and its attachment to freedom, equality and neutrality “, supporting ” the Lebanese army, the only one able to defend Lebanon “. A clear allusion to the arms of Hezbollah, the only Lebanese faction not to have given up its arsenal after the civil war (1975-1990) to fight against Israel in southern Lebanon.
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