Rome Newsroom, Aug 18, 2020 / 08:30 am
Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch issued a memorandum Monday outlining his vision for the restoration of the country’s neutral status as the “Switzerland of the East.”
The future of Lebanon is currently being decided -- as French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter Aug. 9 following the explosion in Beirut’s port -- and the leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholics, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, is adamant that the only way forward for the country in crisis is a foundation of “active neutrality” that will lead to economic stability and security.
“Lebanon’s neutrality is the guarantee of its unity and its historical position, especially in this phase full of geographic and constitutional changes. It is its strength and guarantee of its stability,” Cardinal Rai wrote in the memorandum posted on the website of the Maronite Patriarchate Aug. 17.
“A neutral Lebanon is able to contribute to the stability of the region as well, defend the rights of the Arab peoples and the cause of peace, and play a role in weaving healthy and secure relations between the countries of the Middle East and Europe, by virtue of its location on the shore of the Mediterranean,” he said.
One pillar of Rai’s vision of Lebanon’s “active neutrality” is a commitment to human rights and freedom, which entails Lebanon’s continued support for the Palestinian cause.
Another dimension is strengthening Lebanon’s institutions, rule of law, and military to guarantee internal security and defense from aggression, he said.
Rai argued that a commitment to neutrality would enhance Lebanon’s economic recovery by creating an environment that is stable and secure, which he said would lead to economic confidence, investment, and tourism.
Rai’s statements came at a time when Hezbollah -- the Shiite Muslim political and militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government -- has strong alliances with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and with Iran in its conflicts with Sunni-majority Gulf states.