Religious leaderships have always played a key role in Lebanon. While they don’t seem present in the political scene, they are powerful entities to which the Lebanese government and the people in their respective religious denominations turn to during crucial national, social, and political crises, to name the relevant here.
We might shout out in the streets “revolution” and demand reforms, including non-sectarianism, yet our communities do get influenced by the heads of their respective religious confessions. And so do their key people in the government. We’ve witnessed it in so many instances in our recent history. Hence, the high importance of the announcement of the stance of the Churches in Lebanon now, which many have been waiting to know.
With the different Churches in Lebanon united in one voice to declare their support of the Lebanese protests, aka the revolution, the remaining of their communities who haven’t joined in yet would do so now. Even more importantly, their politicians in the government would have to abide, for, as of date, little has been known of defiance of leaders in top governmental positions towards the heads of their religious denominations.
It is to point out here that the dread of a government vacuum and its consequences has been a topic of debate in Lebanon and also of excuse by the political leaders to stay put in the government. To that question presented recently to the Greek Orthodox Bishop Elias Awdeh of the Metropolitan of Beirut, he responded, “There is a disregard for the dignity of the people, and the vacuum is better than what we live in today.”
Concording, the leader of the Maronite Church in Lebanon and the region, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, invited all heads of the various Christian Churches in Lebanon for an emergency Christian summit in the Maronite Church’s headquarters in Bkerke to discuss the current critical situation, a summit that was held yesterday, Weds Oct 22.
The attendees of the summit included Lebanon’s Maronite, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Evangelical religious leaders; all of whom were reported to be headed to Bkerke Wednesday morning in preparation for the exceptional summit.
Cardinal Al-Rahi opened the summit by expressing his regret that the Lebanese “people have no confidence in the state or political officials,” adding that the people do however have confidence in the Church and they cannot disappoint them. He affirmed that the meeting is all about addressing the current situation and studying together ideas that they -the heads of the Churches- have developed over the past two days.
اثناء مروره في نهر الكلب متوجهاً الى بكركي فتح المطران الياس عودة شباك سيارته وحيا المتظاهرين ودعا لهم بالتوفيق pic.twitter.com/Xr3rmRAXgv
Additionally, Greek Orthodox Bishop Elias Awdeh addressed a speech to “those who demand the opening of roads to go to work,” and said with a hint of bitterness, “Were they [the roads] working in the past?” He then added, “Let the Lebanese [people] talk with the Lebanese [people] and let us have 20 vacancies because the vacuum is better than what we are through living today.”
Moreover, there have been unconfirmed reports about a prolonged phone call that had previously taken place, Tuesday night, between Cardinal Al-Rahi and President Michel Aoun in regards to the latest events enveloping the country. Cardinal Al-Rahi is said to have also conversed with various political blocs concerning the recent developments.
Following the summit, Cardinal Al-Rahi made a joint statement on behalf of all the Churches, calling on the government to heed the people’s demands, and to President Aoun to initiate discussions with the political and religious leaders. The statement called for urgent action, pointing out that “the people would not have risen up had they not reached extreme pain.”
Voicing out the belief of all involved in that summit, Al-Rahi acknowledged the ongoing movement of the nation as “unprecedented and cross-sectarian; “a historic and extraordinary popular uprising that requires historic stances and extraordinary measures.”
The heads of the Churches also called on the protesters in that statement to “respect the freedom of movement of the citizens, especially in terms of securing their health, educational, livelihood and economic needs.”
In return, President Michel Aoun praised the statement of the Church Summit in its contents and calls.