ASIA NEWS REPORT: by JPG
Christian and Muslim representatives are discretely meeting today at the headquarters of the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, to discuss the situation in the neighbouring country, as well as political and social perspectives. Samir Geagea to Christians: "Do not be afraid! Be leaders of the Arab liberation movement".
Damascus (AsiaNews) – As the repression of civil protests Syria continue in various parts of the country, with deaths and arrests, in Lebanon a quite religious meeting of Christian and Muslim is taking place to reflect on the situation in Syria, in an atmosphere of conviviality to share the positions of various denominations. The Grand Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Ahmad Hassoun, Catholic Greek -Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III and others travelled from Damascus to Lebanon for the summit,. The meeting is being held in Beirut at the headquarters of the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Qabbani.
The initiative responds to the rumors that the presence of Christians in the Middle East, especially Syria, is seriously threatened by a possible regime change in Damascus in favour of an Islamist leadership. Against this threat has been uttered by many Muslim figures, including the rector of Al-Azhar University, Cairo, considered the highest academic authority in the Sunni Muslim world.
Last week, the Lebanese press published information from unnamed sources "close to the Maronite Patriarchate," according to whom the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, had told the Maronite Patriarch, Butrus Beshara Rai, during his recent visit to France, that Christians have no place in the Middle East and that they should all emigrate to Europe. The reports were immediately and once formally denied by the Presidency of the French Republic, with the Presidents office stating that on the contrary in his meeting with Patriarch President Sarkozy urged the importance of the Christian presence in the Middle East in the regional perspective of peace. Despite this public denial, and Syrian press published information on Sarkozy’s alleged statements to the patriarch.
In the meantime, the Catholic hierarchy in Syria is due to meet in its first gathering since the events of March 15 (the scheduled meeting in April was cancelled), to adopt a common ecclesial stance on the situation. So far, members of the Catholic episcopate in Syria who have spoken out publically have expressed support for the regime, although in some cases (some writings by Patriarch Gregorios III, President of the Assembly), with an invitation to consider demands of the protesters.
The Assembly will have to take into account instructions received from the Holy See, which demand greater signs of "discernment" and underline the Church's duty to promote human dignity, civic equality among all citizens and between man and women, the respect for fundamental freedoms, the separation between state and religion, the rejection of violence, etc.. and all this without engaging in favor of any political party. And according to the Lebanese Christian leader Samir Geagea, Christians in the Middle East should be "leaders of the Arab liberation movement" and not "the defenders of backward and brutal regimes." Samir Geagea, known for his critical position towards the regime in Damascus said: "My brothers in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and throughout the region, do not be afraid ... immerse yourself in the sufferings of the peoples of the region, always be leaders of the movements of liberation and progress."