Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai called Sunday for an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was launched on Feb. 24, and supported the independence of this country.
Meanwhile, on the local level, the cardinal once again opposed a possible postponement of May 15 legislative elections, and said that “great choices must be made” during the presidential term that will succeed that of Michel Aoun in October.
“No to war! No to war! No to armed solutions! Yes to negotiations through diplomatic and political channels,” Rai said during his Sunday homily in Bkirki.
“The war that is taking place on the territory of the independent state of Ukraine makes us sad. We pray for the end of this war and for mercy for the innocent,” Rai continued, calling on both sides “to sit down together and settle the conflict peacefully.”
“If we condemn what is happening in Ukraine, we still insist on the principle of neutrality, especially on the humanitarian level. The neutrality we advocate is not heartless and conscienceless and is not against human rights or the right of people to self-determination. This neutrality is not against international laws. Solidarity and mediation without military and political involvement is at the heart of positive and active neutrality,” the patriarch explained.
To justify his position, Rai said that “all neutral states in the world were quick to express their support for the independence of the Ukrainian state and the freedom of its people.”
“If we have strengthened our ties with Russia, we have also condemned in the past all the wars waged against the people of the Middle East and which violated international borders, and we have expressed our solidarity with all oppressed peoples … regardless of their political affiliations and the regimes of their states,” he added.
On Feb. 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement denouncing the Russian aggression, but this position has caused controversy and has not been unanimously accepted across the Lebanese political scene.
If at first President Michel Aoun appeared to distance himself from the Foreign Ministry’s statement, he finally aligned himself with it, while calling for an end to the fighting. On Wednesday, Lebanon again sided with Western capitals at the UN General Assembly by voting for a resolution isolating Moscow. Of 193 member countries, five opposed the resolution and 35 abstained from voting on it.
New presidential term
On the local political level, the head of the Maronite Church once again expressed his rejection of any postponement of the May 15 legislative elections.
“We are working with people of good will to ensure that the legislative elections take place on the scheduled date and that the population can once again express itself,” the prelate said. “It is unacceptable under any pretext to circumvent this constitutional and democratic deadline. Those who are working to postpone the elections by inventing pretexts would do better to deploy their efforts so that the elections can take place,” Rai added, continuing,”major choices must be made in the coming months, and under the new presidential mandate. Lebanon can no longer remain stateless, in chaos, collapse and confusion.”
The upcoming legislative elections are seen by many Lebanese as an opportunity to change the ruling political class, accused of corruption and clientelism in a country in full socio-economic collapse since 2019.
The international community, as well as several local stakeholders, fear a postponement of the elections under various pretexts, including a funding problem. However, cabinet has announced that part of the funds are secured, and Hezbollah, accused by its critics of wanting to postpone the polls, regularly states that it is in favor of holding the elections on schedule. The party has even launched its election campaign and published the names of its candidates.
The article was originally published in French in L’Orient-Le Jour.
Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai called Sunday for an end to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was launched on Feb. 24, and supported the independence of this country.Meanwhile, on the local level, the cardinal once again opposed a possible postponement of May 15 legislative elections, and said that “great choices must be made” during the presidential term that will succeed that of...