“To lose Lebanon is to lose the only Middle Eastern country where Christians live in peace and equality”

The nearly seven years of conflict in Syria, the forgotten war in Yemen and the continuing conflicts in Iraq are about to destroy the Middle East. In this difficult context, the former “Switzerland of the Middle East” maintains peace as best it can.

Maronite Patriarch Boutros Raï recalls the importance of cohabitation between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon, and the effects it has for the entire region. Now, even this coexistence is under threat, due to the war and the pressure it brings with the presence of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

CARD. BÉCHARA BOUTROS RAÏ
Maronite Catholic Patriarch

“We are living with heightened danger at various levels: economic, political, social, cultural and security. If the war does not end so refugees can return to their homes, Lebanon will be the first country to pay the price. We will easily lose a country where Muslims and Christians live in peace and equality, with a regime of democracy and culture. Lebanon risks paying this price.”

The cardinal says that the West does not care about the Christian presence in the Middle East due to other interests. Also, it does understand a region marked by Islam, where there is no separation between the State and religion, and, therefore, it does not value the moderation that Christians bring to the region.

CARD. BÉCHARA BOUTROS RAÏ
Maronite Catholic Patriarch

“We cannot talk about secularism in the Middle East. We must understand it, and that’s why the West and Europe do not find value in Christians. They give value to oil and trade, but for them Christians are a minority that has no value. Unfortunately, they despise Christian values. What we want is for Europe to understand the value of the Christian presence as a way to create moderation, democracy, to spread public liberties and, most importantly, freedom of expression, which does not exist.”

This international indifference is making it harder for Christians to desire to return to their homes, even after areas of Syria and Iraq have been liberated. Now, pastors are also asking them not to abandon the cradle of Christianity.

CARD. BÉCHARA BOUTROS RAÏ
Maronite Catholic Patriarch

“We tell them they have to return; they have two thousand years of history there; it’s their birthplace and they are depositories of the Gospel. These are words, but they also need peace. They need the war to cease, so they can return and live in peace again. Nice words are not enough. It is necessary to help them materially, with job opportunities, so that they can move forward with their families. In this situation, those who have left will rarely return.”

The patriarch calls for an end to the war in Syria once and for all, so the refugees can return to their legitimate homes. He regrets that the international community has done more to prolong the war than to achieve peace. He says that a broken Middle East could be the spark that ignites the flame of even greater conflict.