Press Release
June 17, 2002

The World Lebanese Organization (WLO), in view of the circumstances surrounding the event, will not officially attend the Los Angeles Conference organized by the International Maronite Foundation (IMF) on June 19-23, 2002. Members are given the freedom to attend personally.

The WLO, based on media and other reports, has reservations with regards the following issues:

1) The statements published in the Lebanese media, in which the meeting was identified as the “Fourth World Maronite Congress.” The WLO has reservations in this regard. While we encourage all international meetings involving Maronites and Lebanese Christians to examine the national crisis, we do not consider this particular event, regardless of our encouragement, as being the “Fourth World Congress.” For such a World Maronite Congress requires conditions which are not met yet.

2) The statements published in the Lebanese media, suggesting to consider the Maronites as “Arab Christians.” The WLO refuses this suggestion on the basis of ethnic realities. The Maronites are of Syriac-Aramaic Christian identity. The Maronite Church’s official name is the “Maronite Antiochian Syriac Church.” Therefore we cannot endorse the forced “Arabization” of the Maronites.

3) The fact that a number of main players in the upcoming conference have in the past years, and recently again, covered up for the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and denied Lebanon’s civil society its right to ask for withdrawal.

4) The fact that a number of main players in that conference have met with and praised leaders of the Terrorist group Hizbollah. The WLO, especially after September 11, cannot and will not come under the auspices of players who facilitate Hizbollah’s integration in the Lebanese political arena, as long as this organization remains a Terrorist group.

Therefore, the WLO will not be part of the Los Angeles meeting. However, we salute the efforts of the participants who are going to raise those issues of great concern. For we trust that many in the organizing party as well as a significant number of the attendee are trusted and patriotic.

And as we wish the participants the best, we warn from attempts made by some to take advantage of the diversity of opinions, and of the debate about the aim and objectives of the conference to implant an element of discord. Even if we do not participate, we will not allow the subversive element, which serves the interests of the Syrian occupation, to

plant the seeds of chaos. As we express our opinion, we are politically mature and their attempts will not succeed.

Long Live Free Lebanon
Pierre Elias
World Lebanese Organization
New York