Ignatius Hazim's Press Release in Both English and French (Tuesday 3/10/2000)
Orthodox patriarch defends Bkirki
Daily Star correspondents
The Orthodox Church on Tuesday backed Bkirkis right to publicly air its grievances, irrespective of the political sensitivities they may entail, but stopped short of supporting the call for a withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The support voiced by Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim was significant because it came from a senior Christian cleric who has often differed with Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir on political and spiritual issues. Hazims public defense of Bkirki added a new dimension to the snowballing controversy over the declaration of the Council of Maronite Bishops, which has stirred up political and sectarian sensitivities and strained the clergys relations with President Emile Lahoud and with Damascus. It came on the eve of Sfeirs departure for a week-long synod of Catholic clerics at the Vatican, and capped a series of new reactions in which Christian politicians offered support for Bkirki, while a grouping of Sunni clerics in Akkar accused the Maronite bishops of taking stands that could rekindle the civil war. Hazim, whose seat is in Damascus, spoke at an impromptu news conference after a routine meeting of senior Orthodox clerics at the Balamand Monastery on Tuesday. They were later joined by seven MPs. The spiritual guide of the countrys second-largest Christian sect indirectly referred to Lahouds reaction to the Council of Maronite Bishops declaration, saying it was wrong to call it a provocative statement.
Silencing voices wont improve conditions, he said. No one can ban any Lebanese from speaking his mind, or discussing an issue related to his own country, said Hazim, who normally avoids press declarations. If someone is not allowed to speak out in his own country, he remarked, then where is he supposed to speak? The Maronite patriarch, according to Hazim, has every right to speak out. When he does, he is relaying the pains and problems of his community.
He said the incompetence of MPs who are supposed to represent the citizens prompted Sfeir and others to say what they said. We have to listen to every word that is said. Is it logical that someone who lives amongst us in the same country should cry from pain and we dont ask about him?
Hazim decried the trend to blame political and social problems on sectarianism. Sects, he said, are the main component of Lebanon. I look forward to the day when we stop talking about sectarianism as though it was a disease. What harm could it bring? All the Lebanese belong to one sect or another, but some seem to think that if all the Lebanese belonged to one sect, we wouldnt have had problems. This is absolutely untrue. There have been wars and conflicts in countries of a single sect, and the world wars were not sectarian wars. He rejected the classification of the multiplicity of belief in Lebanon as an ailment that should be remedied. We must confront the reality, not run away from it. Hazim did not address the content of the Maronite bishops statement, which, among other things, called for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon under UN Security Council Resolution 520 and in accordance with the Taif Accord.
The Taif Accord contained a call for the redeployment of Syrian forces to the Bekaa in preparation for an eventual withdrawal from the country. But Resolution 520 is somewhat vague. Authored in 1982 in the wake of the Israeli invasion, the resolution refers to the council taking note of the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon. Primarily aimed at the Israeli occupation forces, it called for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon. The clause has been interpreted as a call for an end to Syrias political and military hold. In sharp contrast to Hazims stand, the Union of Akkar Ulama accused Bkirki of instigating fanaticism and strife and blaming others for the countrys ills.
The latter remark was a reference to the bishops complaint that the open market for Syrian goods and laborers was contributing to Lebanons economic woes, and its political influence was crippling the government. At Bkirki on Tuesday, politicians who met the patriarch denied his trip to the Vatican has any political significance, insisting it was strictly spiritual.
Sfeir is expected to meet Pope John Paul II during his stay. The pontiff has confirmed plans to visit Syria in the spring, but the exact date has not yet been set. Incoming Beirut MP Ghattas Khoury said the bishops controversial declaration aimed to encourage a national dialogue to reach solutions by consensus to all the problems at hand. Speaking after meeting Sfeir, he said: Its natural for the next government to address all the national issues. Another visitor to Bkirki, Tawfiq Hindi, an ex-official of the outlawed Lebanese Forces, cautioned against a campaign to marginalize religious authorities in Lebanon, saying this would infringe on the special characteristics of the Lebanese entity.
Mounir Hajj, president of the Phalange Party, rejected accusations that the bishops declaration had sectarian connotations. It broached purely national issues and should not be answered in a sectarian tone. Hajj rejected the Akkar Ulamas accusations, saying: This is not a Lebanese reaction because we are a civilized country. We must all uphold the ethics and moral values of public debate, especially when addressing Bkirki.
Polémique - Le
patriarche grec-orthodoxe apporte son soutien à la démarche de Bkerké
Hazim : « Les hommes de religion parlent quand les politiques se taisent »
Le patriarche grec-othodoxe dAntioche, Mgr Ignace IV Hazim, a
apporté hier son soutien à la démarche du chef delÉglise maronite, le cardinal
Nasrallah Sfeir, en soulignant que «les hommes de religion parlent quand les politiques
setaisent» et en estimant inimaginable «que lon parvienne à un temps où le
Libanais naurait plus le droit de parler de ce qui se passe chez lui».«Pourquoi,
dès que lun ou lautre sexprime, on rejette sespropos et on parle dincitation?
Sil y a une vérité dans ce quil dit, pourquoi toutes ces interprétations
?», sest interrogé Mgr Hazim, lors dune conférence de presse à lissue
dune réunion avec un certain nombre de députés sortants et élus de la
communauté au couvent de Balamand, tenue en marge du Saint-Synode grec-orthodoxe.
syrienne et réside à Damas, a évité de donner une réponse directe à
la question, tout en laissant entendre que toutes les positions à ce propos devraient
être prises en compte. «LÉtat doit examiner toutes les questions posées sur le
tapis et cet examen ne doit pas avoir de limites et ne doit pas être dirigé contre
quelquun. La différence dopinion est permise et seul le dialogue libre et
franc est susceptible de régler les problèmes», a-t-il déclaré.