“To lose Lebanon is to lose the only Middle Eastern country where Christians live in peace and equality”
The nearly seven years of conflict in Syria, the forgotten war in Yemen and the continuing conflicts in Iraq are about to destroy the Middle East. In this difficult context, the former “Switzerland of the Middle East” maintains peace as best it can.
Maronite Patriarch Boutros Raï recalls the importance of cohabitation between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, and the effects it has for the entire region. Now, even this coexistence is under threat, due to the war and the pressure it brings with the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
CARD. BÉCHARA BOUTROS RAÏ
Maronite Catholic Patriarch
“We are living with heightened danger at various levels: economic, political, social, cultural and security. If the war does not end so refugees can return to their homes, Lebanon will be the first country to pay the price. We will easily lose a country where Muslims and Christians live in peace and equality, with a regime of democracy and culture. Lebanon risks paying this price.”
The cardinal says that the West does not care about the Christian presence in the Middle East due to other interests. Also, it does understand a region marked by Islam, where there is no separation between the State and religion, and, therefore, it does not value the moderation that Christians bring to the region. Read More
VOP Note: According to reports. Lebanon has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world. 1 out of every four people is a refugee.
Despite the numbers, Lebanon has a “no camp” policy which means refugees are not allowed to settle in large scale camps. Instead, they are forced to live in temporary shelters, often on waste land. Refugees are not entitled to work and have difficulty accessing schools and healthcare in Lebanon.
(Agenzia Fides) – On February 13, a small procession of about two hundred Christian Iraqi refugees staged a symbolic demonstration outside the local UN headquarters in downtown Beirut to demand their requests to travel to other countries, filed some time ago in the competent offices of several foreign diplomatic representations operating in the Lebanese capital. The posters displayed by the protesters, and the statements made by some of them to the local press, confirm the impression that most of the exiled Christian refugees from Iraq have no intention of returning to their Country, and do not even intend to take root in Lebanon but are hoping to emigrate as soon as possible towards some Western nation.
According to data provided by the local Chaldean community, difficult to verify, about 8 thousand Iraqi Christians emigrated to Lebanon, especially after the conquest of Mosul and Nineveh Plain by the jihadist Islamic State (Daesh).
US President Donald Trump, who began a tug of war with some US judges to impose provisions designed to limit or suspend immigration from certain countries with a Muslim majority, has instead recognized as a “priority” the granting of refugee legal status to the category of “persecuted Christians”. The idea of preparing a “fast track” open for Christian refugees entering the United States, while doors are closed to non-Christian citizens from Countries with an Islamic majority, “has been defined by Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako I a “Trap” for Christians in the Middle East (see Fides 30/01/2017). “Every host country policy that discriminates against the persecuted and those who suffer on religious grounds”, explains Patriarch Louis Raphael, Primate of the Eastern Catholic Church, to which the vast majority of Iraqi Christians belong”, ultimately harms the Christians of the East, because among other things provi des arguments to all propaganda and prejudice that attack the native community of the Middle East as ‘foreign bodies’, groups supported and defended by Western powers”.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters seeking refuge from persecution.
Reminder: It was the Church that aided 1st century persecuted Christian refugees.
al-Qaa (Qaa), a predominantly Christian village in north Lebanon, was violently attacked by a wave of 8 suicide bombings on June 27, 2016. Four suicide bombers struck in the village of Qaa early on Monday morning, causing the fatalities and wounding 15 people. That evening, as friends and family members of the victims gathered outside a church, two men on a motorcycle threw a grenade before blowing themselves up, wounding another 13.
Al monitor reported around 4am, four suicide bombers caught the attention of a local who had woke early to eat before fasting. Suspecting foul play, the resident took out a weapon and fired at one of them, who then blows himself up. Other neighbors and Lebanese soldiers ran to the site of the explosion, clashed with the other three suicide bombers, who detonated themselves subsequently at 10-minute intervals. A rescue worker carrying one of the wounded was killed during the second blast.
A security official said the evening explosions took place while families of those killed in the earlier bombings were gathering to prepare for funerals. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Lebanon’s official National News Agency said 13 people were wounded in the late night explosions.
Fr Elian Nasrallah, a local priest, said the explosions went off near the Saint Elias church and were followed by gunfire.
Following the attacks, the army urged people to avoid gatherings and to cooperate with authorities. Villagers were struck fear and panic and barricaded themselves indoors.
No organization has claimed the responsibility for the 8 attacks, but, experts believe it was ISIS fighters who crossed over from nearby Syria.. Lebanon is a hosts huge numbers of refugees fleeing the Syrian war. It is claimed that ISIS fighters have sent their families to refugee camps in Lebanon. Their jihad subsidized by the disorganization of the international community.
The attacks raised tensions in Lebanon. Last week after meeting with Prime Minister Tamim Salaam, Lebanese security officials released a statement warning the al-Qaa attacks could be the “harbinger of a wave of terrorist operations.” Lebanese security forces stepped up efforts in arresting alleged IS sleeper cells in the north.
Lebanese Army have arrested over 200 refugees in wake of bombings. “It is our humane duty to protect the Syrian refugees, however we will never allow them to harm the Lebanese people.”
The Catholic Herald reported Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, while visiting Qaa, said the village formed part of a “fence” for Lebanon. “When a terrorist enters, he can go anywhere,” he said.
Bassil, heads the Free Patriotic Movement party, the largest Christian bloc in parliament. He sparked condemnation for calling on municipalities under his party’s control to ban any gathering or camps of Syrian refugees.
Bassil said he did not want to “tie any particular nationality or religion to terrorism.” But he said “no one can deny the reality that displacement will be used as a cover for terrorism.”
Please pray for peace and the people of Lebanon. Pray also for the strength in faith and endurance of our Lebanese Christian brothers and sisters.
Two-thirds of a historic collection of 80,000 books have gone up in smoke after a library was torched in the Lebanese city of Tripoli amid sectarian tensions. The blaze was started after a pamphlet insulting Islam was reportedly found inside a book.
Firefighters struggled to subdue the flames as the decades-old Al-Saeh library went up in smoke on Friday in the Serail neighborhood of Tripoli. Despite firefighters’ best efforts, little of the trove of historic books and manuscripts was recovered from the wreckage.
“Two thirds of some 80,000 books and manuscripts housed there,” a security source told Agence France Press, referring to the items destroyed. The source added that the blaze was started after a manuscript insulting the Prophet Mohammed was found hidden in the pages of one of the library books.
A demonstration had been planned in Tripoli after the pamphlet was found but was reportedly called off after the library’s Greek Orthodox owner spoke with Muslim leaders. Lebanese news outlet Naharnet also reported that one of the library workers was shot and wounded Thursday night.
The library owner, Father Ebrahim Surouj, met with Islamic leaders in Tripoli. It became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet, and a demonstration that had been planned in protest over the incident was called off,” the source said.
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Residents of the Tripoli neighborhood of Zahrieh were still reeling from attacks targeting businesses owned by Christians and Alawites over the weekend, with some fearing the incidents were meant to fuel sectarian hostilities. The attacks took place overnight by unidentified armed men, as owners were surprised to learn early Friday when they arrived at the main street of Zahrieh to open up their shops. They rummaged through the debris, as many shops had been burned, to see if any of their merchandise could be salvaged.
All of the owners belong to the Christian and Alawite communities of Zahrieh, causing some observers to muse that they were paying the price for long-standing sectarian tensions in the northern city.
The affected shop owners, identified as Fadi Khoury, Jean Maamari, George Rachkidi, Farid Estephan, Tamim al-Atrash and the owners of retail chains Eskandar and the Nidal boutique, expressed frustration over the incidents, saying they were shocked and saddened that their properties had been damaged and fearful that there were certain parties in Tripoli seeking to remove them from the city.
Belonging to a minority group in Tripoli, some shop owners said they didn’t have authority figures to complain to either.
“My neighbor called at 6 a.m., and told me that plumes of smoke could be seen billowing from my shops after unidentified men attacked the stores and threw fire bombs,” shop owner Maamari told The Daily Star. “When we arrived at the scene it was horrible, we could see our properties and stores, our only means of making a living, burning before our eyes.”
“There is no one here to protect us, because we live in Tripoli,” Maamari said dejected. Residents have long complained that the area is underdeveloped and constantly overlooked by the government, centered in Beirut.
Read more: (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News )