Sheik Bashir, Forgive the Trojans
By: Elias Bejjani
LCCC Chairman

Sunday, September 16, 2001, was an unforgettable and sad day in Toronto, Canada. It was a black day, a traumatic experience for the Lebanese. Not in Lebanon, but for the Diaspora. It should been like any other Sunday. In fact, it started out that way. It could have been a mass similar to those offered by the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces during the last two Sundays. One like those offered in all the Maronite Churches in Canada, Europe, USA, Latin America and Lebanon in commemoration of former president Bashir Gemayel .

The chairmen of three peaceful organizations the Lebanese Forces (LF), the Canadian Lebanese Co-ordinating Council (LCCC) and the Phalange holding Sheik Bashir's picture and a wreath of flowers approached the church. They were immediately stopped in their tracks.  "This picture will not enter the church!" yelled Father Michel Rhouhana, attacking the picture. Disappointed, but not disillusioned, the members again attempted to enter the church. The priest jumped, frantically snatching at the picture while the chairmen and youth from the organizations struggled to hold onto it.

The priest pulled back, breaking the frame of the picture, shocking tens of parishioners. Before he could do any more damage, parishioners and the three chairmen wrested it from his hands. They marched peacefully into the church, holding the wreath and picture, leaving half of its frame in the hands of the priest at the main church door.

The picture and the wreath of flowers were placed near the altar. Many parishioners volunteered to protect them. It is believed that the priest, because of the presence of the Cardinal of Toronto, presided over the mass, or he would have cancelled the mass. However; he continued to manifest his disrespect towards Sheik Bashir and for all what this leader represents to the millions of Lebanese by not offering the mass for him as he had announced several times for the last two months.

After the mass, the cardinal and the priest left the church. The LCCC chairman accompanied by the Lebanese Forces and Phalange chairmen approached the altar and asked the parishioners to pray for Sheik Bashir, which they did with great enthusiasm. He reminded them: "Nineteen years ago our enemies Killed Sheik Bashir the body, but could not kill Bashir the faith, the message or the cause. Today our priest tried to keep Bashir's picture outside the church and broke its frame, but Bashir is here. Every one of you is Bashir. Our priest refused to pray for Bashir. But I am sure all of you did. Long live Bashir. Long live Lebanon." The parishioners stood and applauded in unison.

The priest is now attempting to excommunicate both the LCCC and Phalanges chairmen simply because they asked the people to say a prayer for Sheik Bashir and for putting his picture near the altar during what was supposed to be a mass offered in his commemoration!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2001 was indeed a sad and black day. A sad day for the parishioners at Lady of Lebanon Church. Where most people seek comfort or solace, the Canadian-Lebanese Christian parties, clubs and organizations were humiliated, denied their basic human rights and morally assaulted by Michel Rhouhana, a Maronite priest who refused to allow these patriotic groups to offer a mass for Sheik Bashir. He insisted instead upon offering mass on behalf of the community. He refused to allow the parties to hold any religious celebrations whatsoever during regular Sunday masses, "You, the parties, belittle Sheik Bashir," he told their representatives during a recent meeting. Despite the best attempts, for the last two months, the parties, their friends, many clergymen, dignitaries, prominent church members and Father Rhouhana's superiors were unable to persuade him to change his mind, and hold the mass as requested by the parties.

On September 16, 2001, the Lebanese in Toronto, Canada witnessed for the truth, safeguarded Lebanon's dignity and hailed the 10452 km2. They did not dishonor Sheik Bashir and never will, despite the sacrifice. He, who prevents the Christian Lebanese from praying for their dead, and especially for Sheik Bashir, has not yet been born.

The Canadian Lebanese parties, clubs and organizations forgive all those who have manifested hate for their leader, Sheik Bashir and fight against the values he supported. They pray for their salvation and ask Almighty God to grant them the needed faith and discretion to be able to see the truth and witness for it.

The peaceful struggle for freedom and human rights will continue unabated, and no Trojan, be he priest or anyone else will hinder its course!!!

Long Live freedom