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tripoli library 3Hundreds of Lebanese took to the streets of the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday to protest the torching of a decades-old library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest.

The demonstrators held up banners that read “Tripoli, peaceful town” and “This is contrary to the values of the Prophet,” in reference to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Assailants set alight the Sa’eh library belonging to Father Ibrahim Surouj on Friday night, destroying two-thirds of the 80,000 books and manuscripts it stored, a security official told AFP.

The attack came a day after “a pamphlet was discovered inside one of the books at the library that was insulting to Islam and the prophet Mohammad,” the official said at the time.

Later, however, “it became clear the priest had nothing to do with the pamphlet,” said the same source.

“Then on Friday night, the library was torched,” he added.

The attack left the shelves and walls of the library charred.

tripoli library father surouj 3
Sa’eh library owner Father Ibrahim Surouj

But the Greek Orthodox priest forgave those responsible for the attack, in a statement aired on television on Saturday.

The library is located in the historic heart of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city and scene of frequent Syria-related violence pitting Sunnis against members of the minority Alawite community, to which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

Sectarian violence involving the city’s Christians has been extremely rare in recent years.

But Friday’s incident comes amid a backdrop of growing religious radicalism in Lebanon related to the war in neighboring Syria.

March 14 condemns burning of library

Future Movement bloc MP Mohammad Kabbara voiced on Saturday March 14 coalition’s condemnation of the burning of a library owned by a Greek Orthodox priest in Tripoli.

“The torching of the library is [akin to] targeting the cultural image of the city,” Kabbara said on Saturday following a meeting of the Tripoli Declaration Committee.

The Future parliamentarian expressed March 14 officials’ and Tripoli figures’ solidarity with the owner of the library, Father Ibrahim Surouj, and stressed the importance of coexistence in Tripoli.

“Evil hands appear to be refusing to leave Tripoli alone to enjoy stability and evil minds want to accuse the city of terrorism in all possible means.” Kabbara said adding “March 14 condemns and deplores the attack that only indicates the immoral character of the perpetrators.”

Kabbra added: “Nothing stands in the way of implementing the Tripoli Declaration and we all stress on the necessity to end the spread of weapons because this has become a must to protect religious coexistence.”

Similarly March 14 forces general-secretariat coordinator Fares Soueid condemned the incident following the March 14 meeting in Tripoli:

” Tripoli remains the capital of the North and what happened to Father Ibrahim Surouj required that we all come here to say that there is a conspiracy and the city remains a place for religious coexistence.”

He added: “We are Lebanese people against any Christian, Sunni and Shiite extremism.”

AFP/ Agencies

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