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4th January 2016 - Lebanese PMS Director: The sentencing to death of Shiite Imam Nimr Bakr al-Nimr, commissioned by the Saudi government on January 2, "has as immediate effect the worsening of the Lebanese institutional crisis, but its catastrophic effects are already being registered on all the scenarios of conflict that plague the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen". This is how Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, describes the consequences triggered following the execution of the Shiite religious leader. "In Lebanon, where the vetoes among the political blocs have so far prevented the election of the President of the Republic, vacant since May 2014" refers to Agenzia Fides don Rouphael, "there was an attempt before Christmas to broaden the consensus around the candidacy of Suleiman Franjieh.

That attempt had the support of Saudi Arabia, but that is why it had not so far gained the support of the Shiite of Hezbollah. According to the Director of the PMS in Lebanon, the "targeted and very strong provocation" in Riyadh "may have the effect of blocking the fragile peace projects with which one tried to counter the ongoing conflicts in the region. After what happened, the prospects for peace seem to crumble, and are likely to ignite yet more conflict in Yemen, Syria and Iraq". (GV) (Fides 04/01/2016)


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Friday, 13 November 2015 21:44

LEBANON “Our country is at risk”

13th November 2015 - The President of Caritas Lebanon after the bombing in Beirut. The attack yesterday in the district of Beirut controlled by the Shiite of Hezbollah "tragically confirms the threat of destabilization that hangs over Lebanon. If the war continues in Syria, it is inevitable that our country risks being sucked into the vortex". This is how Maronite priest Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, comments the massacre at the mall in Beirut claimed by the jihadists of Islamic State (Daesh). "The consequences of the war in Syria - says the Lebanese priest to Agenzia Fides - inevitably fall upon us.

The highest number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who we as Caritas try to help, inevitably creates problems for everyone's safety. In such a multitude of desperate people, it is not difficult to imagine that there may be even some of those who have been brainwashed, and are ready to blow themselves up in suicide attacks, causing innocent victims. And in this tragic situation - adds Fr. Karam – the institutional paralysis in Lebanon makes the country even more fragile. The international community and the regional powers that have created this unrest, must stop the conflict in Syria if they really want to prevent all the countries in the area of being infected and destabilized by this crazy war".

The suicide bombing, carried out by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in a very crowded area, is the most serious act of violence which took place in Lebanon in the past eight years, claiming the lives of at least 43 and 239 wounded. The Lebanese press highlights the response of national unity before the massacre, but there are those who recognize that Lebanon risks becoming a "land of jihad". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 13/11/2015)

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25th August 2015 - Syriac Catholic Bishop Flavianus Michael Melki, martyred during the "Assyrian Genocide", will be beatified on the evening of Saturday, August 29, during a solemn liturgy to be held at the Patriarchal convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa (Lebanon), which will be attended by numerous Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches of the East from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. The beatification ceremony will be presided by Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III. The decree of beatification will be read at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Flavianus Michael Melki was killed in hatred of the faith on August 29 one hundred years ago in Djézireh, now Turkey, during the massacres perpetrated against the Armenians and members of other Christian communities at the instigation of the Young Turks.

"A blessed of our church has not been proclaimed for a long time" refers to Agenzia Fides Syrian Catholic priest Nizar Semaan "and Bishop Melki will be the first of the martyrs of the Syrian Catholics of that Genocide to be raised to the honor of altars. But his beatification is a gift for all Christians of the East. In these times of new trials" adds Father Nizar "his figure shows us the luminous faith with which he lived the terrible persecution one hundred years ago, and he can give hope and courage to all the baptized. We pray that through his intercession all are helped to profess faith in Christ in the countries in the Middle East, and also pray so that political and military leaders take paths that lead to peace".

Melki was born in 1858 in Kalaat Mara, a village in the east of Merdin. He was ordained bishop of Gazarta in 1913, lived in extreme poverty and had also sold his vestments to help the poor. In the summer of 1915 he was arrested by the Ottoman authorities on August 28, along with the Chaldean bishop. According to eyewitness reported by Muslim sources, the two bishops were killed after refusing to renounce their faith and convert to Islam. Michael Melki was tortured to death and then decapitated. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 25/08/2015)

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31 March 2015 - Religious Lebanese leaders denounce le plan. Unanimous support and unconditional love to the armed forces, appeal for an end to the vacancy in the president's office, condemnation of masked terrorism in religious matters and the announcement of periodic interreligious summits, to be held every three months to consider together the dramatic political and social situation prevailing in the Country of the Cedars. These are the main contents which emerged during the interreligious summit which took place at the Maronite patriarchal seat in Bkerké on Monday 30 March, which saw the participation of all the Christian and Muslim leaders in the Country, except for the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Yohanna X.

The final statement of the summit, sent to Agenzia Fides, expresses "deep concern" regarding the vacancy in the president's office, which in the eyes of of religious community leaders continues to be "a threat to Lebanon's sovereignty, security and stability" and endangers even its constitutional structure. The long period of institutional paralysis around the election of the new president - the presidential office has been vacant since May 25 - according to the religious leaders threatens the survival of the Country, exposing its fragile balance conflicts and sectarian rifts that are distorting the Middle East scenario.

"The election of a Maronite Christian president", reads the statement of the Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders, "is the guarantee of the continuity of life in society and therefore of Lebanon". The final communiqué of the summit devotes ample space to the economic and social emergencies that are stifling the population, focusing on the problems associated with the unsustainable influx of Syrian and Iraqis refugees in Lebanon. The international community is called to "spend more" to address the "inhuman conditions" experienced by refugees, noting that the endurance of Lebanon is limited "in space and time".

The Christian and Muslim religious leaders have also condemned "terrorism coated with the mask of religion" in a unanimous manner that is destabilizing large areas of the Middle East and appears functional to the fragmentation plans on sectarian basis of individual Middle Eastern States.

In particular, the final communique indicated Eastern Christians as the first victims of the waves of violence that disrupt the region, stressing that in the Middle East Christians are not "guests" and the Christian presence preceded the Muslim hundreds of years, giving a decisive contribution to the flowering of Arab civilization.

The statement recalls the Solemnity of the Annunciation, that has become a national holiday in Lebanon and is defined as "the first Islamic-Christian celebration of history". Moreover, in the text approved by all religious leaders, the institutionalization of interreligious-Lebanese summit was approved, with regular meetings to be held every three months. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 31/03/2015)

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19 January 2015 - Patriarch Rai: “Even poverty and deprivation are destabilizing" the Middle East, because "there cannot be peace where there is underdevelopment". With these words, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai pointed out the fundamental factors and often forgotten conflicts that destabilize the Middle Eastern region, where the jihadist factions earn spaces also by virtue of the financial resources with which they can pay the salaries of the new fighters enrolled in its ranks.

The considerations of the Patriarch, relaunched by the local media, were expressed during the visit he carried out yesterday, Sunday, January 18, in Jabal Mohsen, a suburb of Tripoli where on January 10, two suicide bombings killed nine people and injured another 30. With his visit the Patriarch wanted to offer his condolences in person to Assad Assi, head of the Alawite Muslim Council, and to the families of the victims, of Alawite confession. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 19/01/2015)

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1 October 2014 - The President of Caritas Lebanon: "The effects of uncontrolled influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon open a disturbing scenario. The concern has reached the warning level. Among the local population hostility towards refugees continues to grow, after arms were found in refugee camps. Everyone now sees refugees at the disposal of regional powers who want to destabilize Lebanon or dominate it, preventing it from having an independent policy". This is how the Maronite priest Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, describes to Fides Agency the climate that the Country of the Cedars is facing after what happened in the area of Arsal, where in recent days the army destroyed a refugee camp and arrested hundreds of people. 

The operation, according to widespread reports by humanitarian organizations, was marred by violations and violent behavior of the army against refugees and also caused some victims. 
During the initial stages of the operation, hundreds of men in the camp had staged a protest chanting slogans of support to the jihadists of the Islamic State.
The border between Syria and Lebanon was repeatedly crossed by the incursions of jihadist groups such as al-Nusra, that threaten to execute nine policemen and Lebanese soldiers held hostage in retaliation for the pro-Assad involvement of the Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict. Throughout the Bekaa Valley there is a growing climate of sectarian conflict.

"In some refugee camps - recalls Fr. Karam - weapons were found. Refugees are more than one million and one hundred thousand. Obviously the Church warns against the criminalization of refugees as such, but we record that this sentiment is growing among the population, we cannot deny it and we are not able to appease it. We are criticized for the help we give to refugees. It is natural to raise questions: why are Syrian refugees not checked at the entrance and during their stay like what happens in Jordan or Turkey? Why have Arabia and Qatar so far not received even a Syrian refugee?". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 01/10/2014)

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Thursday, 18 September 2014 21:15

LEBANON Chaos kills charity in the Middle East

18 September 2014 - The President of Caritas Lebanon: "Some time ago a Lebanese bishop tried to collect money to help Syrian refugees. Well, he did not manage to collect any money. People said: enough, we do not want more help. For many people, aid to Syrian refugees has become grounds for accusations and reproaches with regards to the work carried out by Caritas". 

This is how the Maronite priest Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, describes to Fides Agency the gradual disappearance of the Lebanese sense of human solidarity and charity toward Syrian refugees also caused by the renewed fighting in the Bekaa Valley between anti-Assad Syrian militants and forces of the national army. "Among the people" says Fr. Karam "many repeat: 'we welcomed them, and they have betrayed us. Now we do not want to help the Syrians'".

The humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon is likely to become yet another collateral victim of conflicts and events that are spreading fear among the Lebanese population. In the background there is always the threat of a Lebanon infected by the Syrian conflict and the fear that the Country of Cedars will become the territory of conquest for jihad groups like the Islamic State and the Frente al-Nusra, linked to al-Qaida network. The border between Syria and Lebanon has been repeatedly crossed by the incursions of jihadi groups, and al-Nusra threats to execute nine Lebanese soldiers and policemen held hostage in retaliation for the pro-Assad involvement of Lebanese Shiite militia of Hezbollah in the Syrian conflict. 

Father Karam, spoke at the emergency summit on the Middle East these days in Rome and draws attention to the contradictions and ambiguities that mark the attitude of the international community and especially of some Western powers faced with the convulsive developments in the Middle East. "Obviously", notes the Lebanese priest "someone follows out the plan to reshape the Middle East by fomenting the creation of micro-states on ethnic-religious basis. 

According to Father Karam, also a way of addressing the plight of Christians and other minorities fit into the plans aimed at overturning the current Middle East framework: "The new Middle East drawn from these strategists of chaos" noted the President of Caritas Lebanon "is a fragmented region and always drowned in ethnic-religious conflicts, where there is no place for Christians. What makes one think is the fact that the United States and other Western nations move swiftly to grant visas and permits for asylum to Christians with preferential procedures. But we do not accept this. We will never allow to be treated as guests in a land that is also ours". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 18/09/2014)

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9 July 2014 - Patriarch Rai: “The delay or postponement of the election of a new President of the Republic threatens the very existence of Lebanon", because "only a Maronite President with broad consensus and appropriate personality, moral qualities and individual history" can ensure continuity of the physiognomy characteristic of Lebanon. The Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, Bechara Boutros Rai, therefore raises the alarm on the political crisis that has paralyzed the Country's institutions where for months the two main opposing political blocks - the "March 8 Coalition" and the "March 14 coalition"- with their vetoes sabotage any chance of finding a shared candidate for the office of President of the Republic, reserved by the Lebanese political system to a Maronite Christian.

During yesterday’s mass, celebrated in the church of the patriarchal summer residence in the village of Diman, Patriarch Rai accused the Lebanese politicians, who in his opinion seem to ignore the dire consequences of the power vacuum concerning the highest office of the State. The stalemate - the Patriarch said in his homily sent to Fides Agency - is favoring "the socio-economic decline of Lebanon and opens the way for the plundering of public resources and the rights of workers". Moreover, according to the Primate of the Maronite Church, "it is a disgrace" that the presidential office remains vacant while Lebanon is preparing to host major summits of the United Nations and the Arab League. "The Lebanese experience", Patriarch Rai added extending his gaze to the chaotic regional scenarios, "could help the Countries of the Middle East that suffer for the wars, violence, terrorism and the rise of fundamentalist movements" to avoid falling fatally under powers based on "religious, political and social monopoly", safeguarding the peculiarity of the Lebanese pluralistic system "in the midst of the Islamic theocracies that dominate in many Arab Countries and the Jewish theocracy of Israel." (GV) (Agenzia Fides)

Published in News
Friday, 09 May 2014 21:16

LEBANON Women’s marathon for rights

9 May 2014 -“Run Forward”: some 8,000 women from Arab nations and not only, participated in Beirut’s “Run Forward, Enough Going Backwards” marathon for women’s rights. The event was organized by the Beirut Marathon Association (BMA) and sponsored by Lebanon’s First Lady Wafaa Sleiman.

According to the Daily Star, the event that took place Sunday included two races: a 10km race for women and those with special needs 14 years of age and above, and a 5km “Run For Causes” open to men, women and special needs of all ages.

The Beirut marathon, now in its second year, devolves the earnings from registration of participants and donations to charities for women in need.

At the start of 2013, dozens of Lebanese women gathered and danced outside the home of the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, to call for the approval of a law for the protection of women from domestic violence. A peaceful mobilization that obtained the desired result, though the law in force doesn’t protect women from rape and other abuse in marriage. [AdL/BO] © 2014 MISNA

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January 26th-  Missionary Childhood (IM) Day will be celebrated on Sunday,  which has always had the motto "Children help children". Among the various initiatives, the young children of IM in Lebanon have organized themselves to help refugee children. The Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Fr. Paul Karam, and the secretary of the IM of the country, Nada Hajjar, declared that the aid will consist of clothing, fundraising, visits to refugee families.

In Lebanon, the IM supports about 15 000 children who, in 2013, raised more than $ 15,800 in addition to donations destined to Sudan, Iraq and Madagascar. Fr. Karam reported the presence in Lebanon of a half million Syrian refugees, almost all Muslims. This massive presence leads to further difficulties in the small Country which is not capable of sustaining many immigrants. Many arrive without a visa and even education is a problem. "The Church has the duty to awaken the conscience of the international community in order to promote a path of peace and take responsibility towards refugees", added Fr. Karam. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 10/01/2014)

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