Maronite archbishop urges Christians to remain in Lebanon

.- Archbishop Chucrallah Nabil Hage of Tyre in Lebanon is urging Maronite Catholics to keep up their strength and remain in the war-torn country, according to a report in USA Today.

"Wherever you are — in Hajji or Tyre or Marjayoun — if you're patient and believe, you'll make it through this," the archbishop reportedly said in the packed St. George's Church. "The most important thing is to stay on this land."

Since last month, the 63-year-old archbishop has braved the bombing to visit the few Christian villages in largely Shiite southern Lebanon, delivering food and medicine, and urging the Christians to stay, despite the danger.

The archbishop had wanted to begin visiting Christian towns immediately after the start of fighting in mid-July, but he found himself stuck in Tyre as his driver, cook and priests fled. He turned to the group going most often into the war zone: international journalists.

According to the archbishop, Maronites act as a peaceful buffer between two warring entities. He has worked for years to keep the villages populated. But the reality for Christians in southern Lebanon, where they confront a job shortage, is tough.

The Maronite Church cannot compete with the vast social welfare net that Hezbollah has built for Shiites — clinics, schools and other facilities — Daniel Nicholas, an unemployed El Qlaiaa native, told USA Today.

The exact number of Maronites and other Christians in Lebanon is unknown. Though the CIA estimates the nation's population of 3.8 million is roughly 60 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian.

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