Al-Rahi, Ignatius IV: Only a Just State Can Protect Everyone
Only a state built upon justice and equality is capable of protecting all of its citizens, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi and Ignatius IV Hazim, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, said Tuesday.
In a joint statement issued after a closed-door meeting and a dinner banquet at the HQ of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Balamand, the two Christian leaders also “stressed their rejection of the notion of ‘protection’ for any group, from whichever side it may come.”
Al-Rahi and Ignatius IV also stressed “the need for serious efforts aimed at achieving fruitful brotherly cooperation” between the two churches, underlining “the importance of Christian-Muslim solidarity concerning the national and humanitarian affairs.”
According to the statement, the two patriarchs “discussed the general situations in the countries of the Arab Orient and noted that Christians consider the state – the state of citizenship and equal rights and duties – as the real guarantee for a prosperous and promising future, where everyone would live in freedom and dignity, away from any religious or sectarian discrimination.”
Al-Rahi and Ignatius IV agreed on “the importance of raising the Christian voice at international forums in support of the just and rightful national and Arab causes, especially the Palestinian cause.”
The two also stressed “the significance of dialogue at the national level in order to realize social justice and decent living for the citizens of our Levantine countries and dispel the ghost of sedition and civil and sectarian strife.”
The joint statement comes after remarks by Ignatius IV that embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “an honest person who is working for reform” and a series of controversial statements by al-Rahi in France, where he called for giving Assad a chance to implement reforms.
Al-Rahi has said that his statements in France on the Syrian crisis and Hizbullah’s arms -- which stirred a storm of controversy in Lebanon – were not interpreted in a proper manner.
And he told Al-Arabiya television that sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shiites may emerge if the Syrian government is overthrown.
“If the regime changes in Syria, and the Sunnis take over, they will form an alliance with the Sunnis in Lebanon, which will worsen the situation between the Shiites and the Sunnis,” al-Rahi said.
He warned that the Christians will pay the price if the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded Assad.
Asked about Hizbullah’s arms, he responded: “The international community must pressure Israel to withdraw from the occupied Lebanese territories … and fulfill the Palestinians’ right of return, and consequently Hizbullah will have to lay down its arms.”