Lebanese religious leaders emphasize unity after meeting with UN chief
Beirut – Lebanese religious leaders met with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres during his visit to the country in crisis.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, Patriarch of Maronite Catholics, was among six leaders met with the UN leader. Greek Orthodox Patriarch John X Yazigi, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram of Cilicia and representatives of the Sunni, Shia and Druze communities were also present at the meeting.
Upon arriving in Lebanon on December 19, Guterres declared that “the time has come for all of us around the world to express … our solidarity with the Lebanese people.”
Lebanon’s economic crisis, which began in late 2019, has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since 1850. UN estimates show that 78% of Lebanese now live below the poverty line in this formerly middle-class country.
The religious leaders, in their joint statement with Guterres on December 20, confirmed “their commitment to openness, tolerance and coexistence as the essence of Lebanon’s identity and stability.”
They underlined “the importance of safeguarding these values, which are at the heart of the faith, especially in this difficult period of serious financial and socio-economic crisis which heavily affects the population”.
The meeting participants expressed their determination “to focus on what unites Lebanon and brings its people together”. They encouraged their communities âto do the same and embrace dialogue as a means of resolving differences in a spirit of consensus and solidarityâ.
“The participants underlined a desire common to all religions and faiths to see Lebanon recover and prosper, and they pledged to do everything possible to restore hope to its people,” the statement added.
Following his visit with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on December 19, Guterres said: âI told the president that I came with a simple message: the United Nations stands in solidarity with the Lebanese people.
“I urge the country’s politicians to work together to resolve this crisis. And I call on the international community to step up its support for Lebanon,” Guterres said.
“The Lebanese people expect their political leaders to restore the economy, establish a functioning government and state institutions, end corruption and protect human rights,” he said.
âSeeing the suffering of the Lebanese people, Lebanese political leaders have no right to be divided and cripple the country,â Guterres said.
The new Lebanese government, formed on September 10, has not met since October 12.
Also on December 20, Guterres visited the port of Beirut, which was devastated by the deadly explosions of August 4, 2020, and laid a wreath at the victims’ memorial. The disaster left more than 200 dead and 6,500 injured. The investigation into those responsible continues to stall.
Guterres’ visit to Lebanon ends on December 22.