BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai Sunday called on the international community to declare Lebanon’s neutrality toward regional and global conflicts and indirectly slammed Hezbollah for its unilateral decisions in dictating Lebanon’s fate
During his Sunday’s sermon in the northern town of Diman, Rai said
“The Lebanese reject that any popular or parliamentary majority tamper with the Constitution, the National Pact and the law, or with Lebanon’s cultural model.”
They also reject that it “isolate it from its brotherly and friendly nations and peoples, that it take it from abundance to destitution, from prosperity to decline or from advancement to backwardness,” the patriarch added.
He stressed that the Lebanese want an end to “unilateralism, paralysis and negligence.”
He also called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Lebanese areas in south Lebanon and the implementation of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions on the Palestinian issue.
“In order to protect Lebanon and its message from the dangers of the fast-moving political and military developments in the region and in order to avoid involvement in the policy of regional and international axes and struggles, prevent external interference in Lebanon’s affairs, and out of keenness on its supreme interest, national unity and civil peace … and its adherence to the resolutions of international legitimacy and Arab unanimity and the rightful Palestinian cause, and demanding the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba hills and the northern part of the village of Ghajar, and the implementation of the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, I issued the appeal in last Sunday’s sermon to the international community to declare Lebanon’s neutrality for the sake of its own good and the good of all its components,” Rai said.
The patriarch, who has recently been outspoken in his harsh criticism of the ruling political elite for failing to resolve the country’s crippling economic and financial crisis, the worst in decades, stressed that the Lebanese, facing the threat of poverty and famine, wanted “bold positions to rescue the country.”
“They want a free state that speaks in the name of the people and returns to them with regard to fateful decisions, rather than a state that abandons its decision-making and sovereignty,” Rai said.
In an indirect criticism of Hezbollah, the Iranian backed militant group which has been accused by its opponents of dictating the government’s policy and implementing Iran’s agenda in Lebanon, Rai said: “The Lebanese do not want any party to unilaterally decide the fate of Lebanon, along with its people, territory, border, identity, coexistence formula, system, economy, culture and civilization.”
Rai reiterated the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality, by indirectly criticizing Hezbollah over its support for Iran in conflicts with Gulf Arab states. In his last two sermons he shifted to a more openly critical stance against the policies of both Hezbollah and its ally President Michel Aoun.
Rai’s call for Lebanon’s neutrality has been welcomed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his March 14 allies , while Hezbollah and its allies the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement have so far refrained from commenting .