Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil addresses Middle East Christian Conference: “We will resist with politics,…. and no one will defeat us.”

Christian religious, political and social leaders from across the Middle East and the Diaspora are attending a conference in Lebanon that aims to highlight the plight of the Christian Communities of the Middle East. The conference, which commenced on Friday and goes through the weekend, is being held at the Notre Dame University – Louaize. The inauguration of the conference also had the Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zaspikin, as a guest.

Addressing the conference, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil discussed the plight of Christians in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East. He spoke of a tendency in Lebanon to sideline the role of Christians in the political sphere. Bassil, a prominent Free Patriotic Movement leader, said “We will not accept the reduction of our role and the attack on our rights”. Sounding an upbeat note, Bassil stated “We will resist with politics and whatever else is legitimate, and no one will defeat us.”

Speaking about the reasons that led to recent protests by the Free Patriotic Movement and the rejections of the actions of Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Bassil said the FPM was working to restore a balance and a positive atmosphere for Lebanon’s Christians so that “we won’t arrive at a day when we will be weeping because we have been displaced from our lands”.

MP Naamitallah Abi Nasr, also a member of the FPM’s political bloc, the Change and Reform Bloc, also spoke about the plight of Christians in Lebanon and the greater region. Abi Nasr, an outspoken advocate for the rights of the Lebanese Diaspora spoke about the unfair electoral law in Lebanon which drowns out the voices of Christian electorates throughout the country by incorporating them into much larger areas, which was implemented during the period of the Syrian occupation as a means to silence Christian dissent. This same electoral law is still being employed today by certain political parties to sideline Christian representation. Abi Nasr stated “No sect, regardless of its size, should be allowed to monopolize power in Lebanon.”

Another prominent Lebanese speaker at the event was Maronite Patriarch Bshara AL Rai who insisted that on one would be able to uproot Christians from the region because he said “God planted them there.”

Commenting on the integral role that Christians play in the region, Al Rai said that “Arab world needs to ask itself what its destiny would be without its Christians.”

Speaking in regards to the political impasse in the election of a New President in Lebanon, the Patriarch stated the political parties needed to name “their final candidates” for the role rather than waiting for an international decision in this regard.

Patriarch Al Rahi has previously agreed with the main Christian parties in Lebanon that the next President of Lebanon would be a prominent Christian political figure, as is the case with the other sects in the country. He even stated during a television interview that he would conduct a poll to determine the preferred candidate and offer that candidate support. He now seems resigned to the election of a less prominent, so called “consensus candidate”.

R.B 27/07/2015

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