BEIRUT (CNS) — Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, patriarch of the Maronite Catholics, met with top ambassadors in Lebanon and called for a “unified international stance” in the face of terrorism.
The cardinal stressed that terrorism poses a major challenge to moderation in the region and the Christian presence in the Middle East.
Invited by Cardinal Rai, the ambassadors to Lebanon of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council met April 16 at Bkerke, the Maronite Patriarchate headquarters north of Beirut. Attending were: Sigrid Kaag, representative of the U.N. secretary-general; U.S. Ambassador David Hale; French Ambassador Patrice Paoli; European Union Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst; British Ambassador Tom Fletcher; and Chinese Ambassador Jiang Jiang.
The Vatican nuncio to Lebanon, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, also attended.
In addition to regional issues, the leaders discussed the stalemate in the election of a president in Lebanon. The post, reserved for a Maronite Catholic, has been vacant since the six-year mandate of former President Michel Sleiman ended in May 2014 because of the failure of rival parties to agree on a candidate.
Cardinal Rai has accused the country’s political parties of relying on external powers for directives.
Opening the meeting, the cardinal stressed the crucial role of the international community in maintaining the social and cultural pluralism in the region, based on Christian-Muslim co-existence, according to a statement from Bkerke.
The cardinal called for the international community to ease the burden on Lebanon caused by the crisis of Syrian refugees, noting that Lebanon cannot support the situation on its own. He said the refugees need to be able to return to their country and to their homes.
Lebanon has 1.5 million Syrian refugees and thousands of Iraqis, overwhelming the country’s economy and straining social relations.
Cardinal Rai called for a “unified international stance in the face of terrorism,” stressing that terrorism threatens everyone, “without exception,” and poses a “major challenge” to moderation in the region and the Christian presence in the Middle East.
He added that the international community needs to support the Lebanese army and security forces in the face of threats to Lebanon.
He asked for the support of the international community in facilitating the election of the president of Lebanon and to support dialogue between feuding Lebanese parties.
After the meeting, Kaag told media the ambassadors shared the cardinals’ concern that the 11-month stalemate is “undermining Lebanon’s ability to address the security, economic and social challenges it faces and has jeopardized the normal functioning of Lebanese institutions.”
The ambassadors, she said, were committed to “sending a strong message” to Lebanese political leaders to adhere to Lebanon’s Constitution and to call on all parties “to act responsibly and put Lebanon’s stability and national interests ahead of partisan politics.”