The Maronite Patriarch Is Lebanon's Conscience
By: Elias Bejjani*

February 07/2010

The Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Mar (saint) Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir is referred to by the majority of the Lebanese citizens, both Christians and Muslims, as the conscience of the country, and in fact he is. This wise 89-year-old hermit is an outspoken, courageous, meek, faithful, and shrewd leader who owns no missiles, has no militias under his control, and is not actually supported or sponsored by any other country, which is the situation of many other Lebanese denominations. He derives his power, respect, credibility and authority from a solid faith in the Lebanese people and from their historic longing for freedom, democracy and law.

The emblem of the Maronite seat at Bkerki, reads: "For it the glory of Lebanon was given".

Maronites founded modern and free Lebanon as a democracy and a multicultural mosaic. They have safeguarded it with ongoing sacrifices, and throughout all their 1500 years of deeply rooted history made it an oasis for all the persecuted in the Middle East and a heaven for freedom and tolerance.

Patriarch Sfeir since he was elected to the highest ranking Maronite holy ecclesiastic post in 1986 has been steadfastly walking as tall as Lebanon's Holy cedars in the footsteps of his 75 predecessors. He carries on his shoulders huge responsibilities among which is protecting the enduring existence of his people in the country in which they were and still are her cornerstone in spite of the immense hardships and all kinds of serious obstacles that faced in the past and the present.

While most Lebanese politicians, parties and the majority of the religious denominations' leadership, including many Christians, have succumbed to the Syrian occupation, that has lasted for 29 years (1976-2005), he peacefully resisted and refused to compromise on any of the Maronite church's or  Lebanon's historical convictions. He has never lost hope and has lobbied vigorously all over the world for the country's freedom, sovereignty and independence.   

His laborious work united the majority of the Lebanese people from all religious denominations, and was an inspiration for the "Cedar Revolution" that forced the Syrian occupation army to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005. Since then, Hezbollah, the Iranian army that Syria and Iran founded during the occupation era, against the will of the Lebanese people, including the Shiite community, has been a threat to the country's unity, and a serious armed obstacle for the reclaiming of independence and freedoms.

Patriarch Sfeir is very loud, clear and heroic in his official pro-Lebanon declared stance in regard to Hezbollah's ongoing ministate, weaponry and fundamental military links to Iran and its Persian Empire dream. His Beatitude is also very adamant and outspoken on the need to put an end to Syria’s vicious flagrant interference and meddling in the Lebanese internal affairs.

He vigorously supports and lobbies for:

* the implementation of the UN Resolutions 1559 (September 2/2004) 1701 (11 August 2006) and 1680 (17 May 2006) that call for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, including Hezbollah,

*the respect of the Lebanese-Israeli General Armistice Agreement (1949) ,

*the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,

*the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized territorial borders,

*the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory.

In three interviews that were conducted with Patriarch Sfeir on February 01, 02, and 05/2010 by the Voice of Lebanon Radio Station, the Kuwaiti Daily Al-Seyassah, and Al-Massira magazine,  and in other recent statements he has emphasized the following vital issues:

 *The possibilities of war exist as long as Hizbullah wants to play the role of the state.

*Who is the guarantor that the armed group (Hezbollah) is not going to use its arms against those Lebanese who are unarmed.

* Hezbollah's loyalty to Iran is much greater than to Lebanon.

*Lebanon cannot be a sovereign country while Hezbollah remains an armed militia that at one time fights Israel and at another time fights the Lebanese themselves.

*The peace and war decision making process needs to be in the hands of the Lebanese government and not with Hezbollah.

*The Syrians kept their influence despite their withdrawal from Lebanon as a result of the compliance of some Lebanese with their tutelage.

*Lebanon is currently in a political truce with Syria.

*We wonder if Syria has put end to its Lebanese ambitions (expansionism & hegemony) after the exchange of ambassadors between the two countries.

*My visit to Syria should not be acceptable only from my church, but from all the Lebanese people.

*Syria is much bigger than Lebanon, and sadly its policies with our country are based on this concept.

*Lebanese Christian divisions exist, but Christians are not silent as Sunnis and Shiites.

*Christians have been living in Lebanon for 1500 years and they shall continue to do so no matter what happens.

*The situation of the Lebanon's Christians wasn't better in previous decades. Lebanon's Christians weren't better during Turkish rule. The Turkish state was against us but we preserved our presence.

*Conciliation between all Lebanese is in the interest of all parties and communities.

*Lebanon's president must perform his duties, but to do so, he needs the genuine support and assistance of those concerned.

*Each Lebanese religious denomination holds dear to its creed, rituals, destiny and history, therefore abolition of sectarianism is not easy.

*We reject the blind amendments on the Lebanese municipal law.

*We fear the stage that follows the abolition of political sectarianism.

*We call on the Lebanese authorities to facilitate for the Lebanese in Diaspora the regaining of their citizenship and to be able freely to practice their voting rights.

Related documents' links
UN Resolution 1680
UN Resolution 1559
UN Resolution 1701
Lebanese-Israeli General Armistice Agreement

*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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