BEIRUT: The culture of religious, political and economic diversity is fundamental to the survival of Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Friday.“What is the culture of Lebanon?
It is diversity in cultures and religions because religions are also spiritual, moral, historic and artistic cultures. Lebanon’s culture is a crossroad for civilizations and religions,” Rai said during a cultural gathering at the seat of the Maronite patriarchate in Bkirki.
Rai added that Bkirki was committed to promoting a rich and diverse Lebanese culture on economic, social, political and religious levels.
The patriarch said Lebanon’s culture was based on freedom of speech and beliefs, contrary to countries that adopt religious regimes based on the culture of “only one party, one opinion, one religion and one hand with control over power.”
Lebanon separated religion from the state, but the state believes in God and recognizes all religions, Rai said.
“The separation between the religion and the state is our demand but we reject the separation between the state and God. In the West, they separate the world from God and they are suffering from a decay in moral and humanitarian values,” Rai said.
Following his election as patriarch in March, Rai said the Maronite church was committed to a civil state in Lebanon.
The patriarch also held separate talks Friday with the ambassadors of the United States (Maura Connelly), Romania (Daniel Tanase) and Austria (Eva Maria Ziegler.)
Rai had sponsored Thursday a second meeting of Maronite leaderships in less than two months in an attempt to end political divisions within the Maronite community.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Marada Movement chief Suleiman Franjieh were among the 37 Maronite lawmakers and figures who attended the meeting in Bkirki.
The meeting ended with an agreement to safeguard Lebanese land, preserve Lebanon’s special identity and its diverse society, and achieve an equal division of civil service posts between Christians and Muslims.
Property sales and high emigration rates have raised fears over organized efforts to alter the country’s demographic balance, as Lebanon’s Christian community has fallen to almost 40 percent, threatening the ongoing viability of a system of power-sharing based on parity between Muslims and Christians.
Bkirki reportedly aims to repair the schism between the two Christian camps, one siding with the U.S.-French-Saudi axis and the other with the Syrian-Iranian axis