Why Lebanon Protesters Target Religion-Based Politics

LEBANONThe anti-government protesters filling Lebanon’s streets have been unappeased by proposals to cut politicians’ salaries, recover looted money and create a national anti-corruption commission. They’ve been unmoved by the ditching of a plan to tax phone calls over the internet and by the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. They demand, instead, a complete rout of the country’s ruling class. Some want a redrawing of the entire political system that would eliminate the religion-based framework they blame for empowering inept leaders who serve themselves and perhaps their coreligionists rather than the country.

1. What is Lebanon’s political system?

Lebanon officially recognizes 18 religious groups or “confessions” — 12 Christian sects, 4 Muslim sects, the Druze sect and Judaism. A combination of traditions and laws dating back to French rule after World War I divide political power among them. High-level government offices, legislative seats and public-service jobs are divided equally among Christians and Muslims. By convention, Lebanon has a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shiite Muslim speaker of parliament. The religious groups have autonomy over the personal matters of their members, such as family law, marriage and divorce.

The Lebanese saint who unites Christians and Muslims

Image_from_the_Shrine_of_St_Charbel_Credit_Hannah_Brockhaus__CNAImage from the Shrine of St. Charbel. Credit: Hannah Brockhaus / CNA.

July 24, 2019
Hannah Brockhaus
Catholic News Agency

ANNAYA, Lebanon – St. Charbel Makhlouf is known in Lebanon for the miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

“St. Charbel has no geographic or confessional limits. Nothing is impossible for [his intercession] and when people ask [for something], he answers,” Fr. Louis Matar, coordinator of the Shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya, Lebanon, told CNA.

Speaking in Arabic with the help of an interpreter, Matar said the shrine, which encompasses the monastery where the Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit lived for nearly 20 years, receives around 4 million visitors a year, including both Christians and Muslims.

Matar, who is responsible for archiving the thousands of medically-verified healings attributed to the intercession of the Maronite priest-monk, said that many miraculous cures have been obtained by Muslims.

Since 1950, the year the monastery began to formally record the miraculous healings, they have archived more than 29,000 miracles, Matar said. Prior to 1950, miracles were verified only through the witness of a priest. Now, with more advanced medical technology available, alleged miracles require medical documents demonstrating the person’s initial illness and later, their unexplainable good health.

One of the miracles documented by Matar at the end of December, when he spoke to CNA, was that of a 45-year-old Italian woman. Suffering from a neurological disease, she was hospitalized after it was discovered she had tried to commit suicide by consuming acid.

In the hospital, the doctors discovered that the damage to her esophagus and intestines was so extensive, “the last way possible to cure her was believing in God and praying,” Matar commented.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC SAN FRANCISCO 

The Lebanese saint who unites Christians and Muslims

.- St. Charbel Makhlouf is known in Lebanon for the miraculous healings of those who visit his tomb to seek his intercession – both Christians and Muslims.

“St. Charbel has no geographic or confessional limits. Nothing is impossible for [his intercession] and when people ask [for something], he answers,” Fr. Louis Matar, coordinator of the Shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya, Lebanon, told CNA.

Speaking in Arabic with the help of an interpreter, Mater said the shrine, which encompasses the monastery where the Maronite Catholic priest, monk, and hermit lived for nearly 20 years, receives around 4 million visitors a year, including both Christians and Muslims.

Matar, who is responsible for archiving the thousands of medically-verified healings attributed to the intercession of the Maronite priest-monk, said that many miraculous cures have been obtained by Muslims.

Free app reveals the wonders of Lebanon’s variety of religions

20180926T1144-1046-CNS-HOLY-LEBANON-APP-690x450BEIRUT, Lebanon – From its high majestic mountains, picturesque villages and coastal towns to its bustling cities, Lebanon is rich in breathtaking scenery, cultural diversity and religious sites.

Now the land of the cedars mentioned in the Bible 96 times is accessible virtually, via a free app in English – called Holy Lebanon – aimed at promoting religious tourism.

“Even if you can’t come to Lebanon to visit, you can download the app and have an idea about different religious sites around the country,” Nour Farra Haddad, developer of the Holy Lebanon app, told Catholic News Service.

“Holy Lebanon,” introduced in June, was followed in July with an announcement from the Vatican that it will authorize official pilgrimage visits to Lebanon in 2019.

The multifaith app features 300 religious sites, representative of all of Lebanon’s 18 religious traditions, including Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. The sites include churches, monasteries, convents, shrines and sanctuaries as well as mosques, many dating back centuries ago.

“It is just a beginning,” Farra Haddad said, noting that more sites will be added to the Holy Lebanon app in the future.

While the app took two years to develop, it is based on Farra Haddad’s 10 years of research as a religious anthropologist.

Lebanon, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, is visibly steeped in religion.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

Lebanese bishop praises courage of Muslim Grand Mufti in defending Mideast Christians

lebanese-christian-maronites

A Lebanese Maronite bishop in Paris has praised the grand mufti leading Sunni Muslims in Lebanon for defending the importance of Christians in the Middle East and condemning attacks on them as a crime against the entire population.

The words of Grand Mufti Abdel Latif Derian of Lebanon are “more than courageous,” they are a “valuable” act that fits “with the spirit” of an apostolic exhortation of the late Pope John Paul II, says the Lebanese Maronite bishop in Paris.

Monsignor Maroun-Nasser Gemayel, bishop of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Paris, was referring to the Apostolic Exhortation A hope for Lebanon by John Paul II of 1997 when he spoke to Asia News.

Abdel Latif Derian, the Sunni authority in Lebanon had reminded Muslim students of the importance of the Christian presence in the region.

He said attacks against them are a crime against the entire population, noting that Muslims and Christians share “the same fate.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECUMENICAL NEWS 

Peace-building between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon

3642739700_27ece7f930_bLebanon (MNN) – The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) seeks to change discussions between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. In a country that still feels the effects of a 15-year civil war, people often mistrust those outside their own groups. But the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and its department, the Institute of Middle East Studies, equips leaders to go back to their communities and build peace in the middle of chaos.

Peace-building and the Gospel

Martin Accad, the Chief Academic Officer at ABTS and the Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies explains the goal of ABTS. “We feel very much that our role is not only to develop theologically-thinking leaders, but to also develop leaders that can do works of transformation in society within the area of reconciliation and restoration of communities.”

These students go back to areas where Christians feel out of place in society. As a minority in their country, Accad says there is a sense that they don’t have a place in their culture. But this is not the message of the Gospel.

Christ calls his people to be peacemakers in whatever place they live.

Accad explains, “Peacemaking or peace-building first of all looks at conflict not necessarily as a problem, but as an opportunity. That would be the first aspect of being a peacemaker, but also peacemaking is something you do proactively rather than reactionary, as peace-keeping sounds.”

ABTS seeks to build peace proactively with five key initiatives, three of which are currently in progress.

Initiative 1: Bread and Salt

This unique program brings together both Christian and Muslim youths between the ages of 14-17 who live in the same neighborhood. Though these young people live close by, they may never have dialogued about their faith. ABTS gives them the tools they need to connect on a deeper level as they talk about their personal beliefs and break down stereotypes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MNNONLINE 

The Near East School of Theology

This short video clip highlights the important work of the Near East School of Theology in promoting good relations between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon.  This is a Protestant seminary which has played a prominent, yet often quiet role in helping defuse tensions between religious communities in a sometimes contentious political atmosphere.

Here  is a link to their website:    NEST 

Christians Join Forces With Muslim Group Hezbollah to Fight ISIS in Lebanon

BqK6PzzIEAEy1sk

Christian Post — The Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, classified for many years by U.S. Intelligence as a terrorist organization, is training Christians to fight ISIS in Lebanon and the Middle Eastern believers say their new and unlikely allies “accept us as we are.”

Citing Lebanese sources, Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin says Christian villages in the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon are forming militias to join Hezbollah fighters already engaging ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nursa Front in the Syrian Qalamoun mountains opposite villages in central and eastern Bekaa.

Rifit Nasrallah, a Catholic businessman who is part of the militias fighting ISIS in Ras Baalbek, discussed the alliance with Hezbollah in an International Business Times report last month.

“We’re in a very dangerous situation,” he said. “The only people who are protecting us are the resistance of Hezbollah. The only one standing with the army is Hezbollah. Let’s not hide it anymore.”

Nasrallah said Hezbollah does not expect its allies to convert to Islam or create an allegiance to the group’s ideals.

“They accept us as we are,” he said. “They do not impose on us anything. When there’s an occasion, they come to our children’s birthdays. The people here accept that Hezbollah comes and helps.”

This unlikely alliance between Christians and Hezbollah is a far cry from the adversarial relationship depicted between the two groups in the region.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST

In the name of God: Lebanese gathering emphasizes Christian, Muslim coexistence

assyrian-christians-beirut-lebanon-afpA gathering of Lebanese Christians, known as “the Lady of the Mountain,” met Sunday with the aim of mapping out the role that Christian’s should play in preserving coexistence in Lebanon and the region.

The protection of Lebanon requires Christians to work towards preventing sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis, which in turn would protect Muslims, Christians and the Lebanese entity as a whole, a statement released after the meeting said.

The statement also said that presidential elections should be carried out through a national approach, not a strictly Christian one.

The gathering agreed on the need to reemphasize the unique Lebanese model of coexistence, especially with regards to the Muslim-Christian and Sunni-Shiite partnership in governing a single state.

The statement noted that a return to the Taif Accord would bring an end to attempts to unsettle the foundations of Lebanese coexistence, saying that the agreement that ended Lebanon’s civil war serves as a model for religious coexistence in the region.

The convened also agreed that protecting Lebanon during this turbulent phase requires a set of initiatives, such as supporting the efforts of the Maronite Church in pushing lawmakers to end the year-long presidential vacuum.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL BAWABA

Lebanese Shiite leader launches interfaith dialogue

Shiite cleric Ali Fadlallah (R), son of“God taught us how to converse with all people. There are no sanctities when it comes to dialogue. God Almighty himself spoke to the devil. Are there people like the devil? Also, the Quran is a book of dialogue with polytheists about the unity of God, and with infidels about the existence of God and the prophecy of Muhammad.” This is how the late Lebanese Shiite cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah responded when asked about the increased talk of interfaith dialogue in the 1990s.

The occasion to talk about the late Fadlallah today, and about his call for dialogue with the “Other” — especially with other Christian and Islamic sects — is an initiative launched by his son, the scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah. The latter established the “Religions and Cultures Forum for Development and Dialogue,” in which 50 different personalities participated, including Muslim and Christian clerics and intellectuals from Lebanon and other countries of the Arab and Islamic world.

This forum was announced by Fadlallah during a ceremony held in Beirut on Tuesday, Oct. 30, attended by MPs, politicians, party leaders, intellectuals and media figures. The most prominent attendees included the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance (Hezbollah) Bloc, MP Mohammad Raad; the head of the Islamic Group in Lebanon’s political bureau, Azzam Ayoubi; a representative of former Lebanese President and Kataeb Party leader Amine Gemayel; and delegations from the Amal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party.

A number of religious leaders were also in attendance, including the Rev. Fadi Daou, a representative of Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara al-Rai; Rev. Sulaiman Wehbe, a representative of the patriarch of Antakya, Alexandria and Jerusalem for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church Gregory III Laham; a representative for the papal ambassador to Lebanon; Archbishop Daniel Sukkar, a representative for Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas; and a number of Sunni, Shiite and Druze religious scholars from Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic world. The most notable among the latter were the General Secretary of the Supreme Islamic Legislative Council Sheikh Khaldoun Oraymit, and Sheikh Sami Abou al-Mona, who represented the spiritual leader for the Druze sect Sheikh Naim Hassan.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR