Rosaries bearing a picture of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah have provoked controversy in Lebanon’s Christian community, whose members say the depiction is insulting.
Christians are set to play a significant political role in Lebanon’s Shiite-Sunni power struggle through the June 2009 parliamentary elections, the Middle East Times reports. Hezbollah is a mainly Shiite Islamic party.
"The rosaries are an insult to our Christian beliefs," an official with the Christian Lebanese Forces party said on Thursday, according to Alarab Online.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, she characterized the rosaries as “an attempt to influence public opinion within the Christian community so that people get used to seeing a photo of Nasrallah next to the Virgin Mary or saints.”
The official said the Lebanese Forces are not accusing Hezbollah of producing the rosaries, but feel that the party needs to take action to prevent their distribution.
A Hezbollah official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party had nothing to do with the rosaries. According to Alarab Online, he accused the rival Lebanese Forces of trying to create dissension among religious communities.
"Why is Nasrallah guilty if people decide to put his picture on rosaries?" the Hezbollah official said. "This issue is dangerous."
Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon, weighed in on the issue saying that politics and religion should not be mixed.
Last November, Lebanese filmmaker Jocelyne Saab was ordered to remove some of her photo exhibition’s pictures which were deemed controversial, such as one depicting Nasrallah alongside Christ on a crucifix.