Lebanon Church leader tells Shafaqna “Middle East needs Christians and Muslims”

SHAFAQNA – The head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, Cardinal Bechara Rai, has issued a call for unity between Christians and Muslims and urged members of parliament to break the deadlock and choose a president for the troubled country, where the position has been vacant for two years.

The cardinal was speaking at the opening of an amphitheatre dedicated to a martyr of the Armenian Genocide in which more than a million Armenians are believed to have been killed by the Turks. Blessed Ignatius Maloyian was executed in 1915 when he refused to recant his faith.

Representatives of Armenian and other Churches were present at the ceremony as well as representatives from political parties and the armed forces.

In comments to Shafaqna the cardinal said Lebanon was an example of how Christians and Muslims could coexist: “We base ourselves on the agreement of communal living, separating religion and state, respecting the rights of each religion and its teachings.”

He said Lebanon had “a very special experience in dialogue, common destiny and life…The Christians of the East have had a key role in strengthening cultural and religious diversity.”

He added: “Together with Muslims, we are called to preserve the face of the Arab culture and protect it from the rejection of diversity, from sectarian, ethnic and linguistic differences.”

Today, he said, the Christians of the Middle East were undergoing a new version of genocide, especially in Syria and Iraq.

“Hundreds of children of our churches have died, hundreds of thousands have lost what they had sown throughout an entire lifetime and have embarked on the road of emigration,” he said.

He said the presence of Christians in the East made a vital contribution to the intellectual, theological and cultural life of the region, and that it formed a “cultural and scientific bridge with the West”.

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