During his visit to Baalbek on Saturday, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai called for coexistence between Lebanese sects.
“As a Maronite Patriarch, I am telling you that no matter how bad the situation becomes, on the external and domestic levels, the coexistence will never be harmed ,” Rai said in this predominantly Shiite city.
He also called on all political parties and sects to join hands in continuing to build the Lebanese state.
Rai came under fire on September 8 from the opposition March 14 parties but won praise from March 8 politicians for indirectly defending Hezbollah’s arms and linking the party’s arsenal to the termination of Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland . Even MP Walid Jumblatt who defected from March 14 alliance was very critical of Rai’s statements.
On September 8, Rai emphasized that only when the international community exerts pressure on Israel to vacate the occupied Lebanese territory ( the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba hills and the Lebanese part of the disputed border village of Ghajar ) and Israel allows Palestinians in Lebanon to return to their homes, can Hezbollah be asked to hand over its arms because they will no longer be needed.”
He added that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “open-minded” and should be given more chances to implement the reforms he already announced.