His Holiness Catholicos Aram I pleaded for help for Lebanon in a meeting of the country’s religious leaders with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Beirut on Monday, Dec. 20.
The UN chief has met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and other leaders in his official visit to the country. Mr. Guterres expressed his solidarity with the Lebanese and urged the international community to lend more support to country, which is mired in an acute political and economic crisis.
In the closed meeting with Mr. Guterres, Catholicos Aram and the religious leaders of the other five major Christian and Muslim communities shared their views, concerns, and expectations about the situation.
“You have come to Lebanon with one simple message: the UN stands with the people of Lebanon,” said His Holiness Aram I in his intervention. “Our message to you is a simple one too: help us, Lebanon is dying.”
The Catholicos said that there is a tendency to deal with the symptoms of crises rather than addressing their causes. He then listed those that are at the root of Lebanon’s recurring instability: the system of governance; the ruling class, and the conception of the state.
His Holiness elaborated on each of these topics:
- Governance based on a community system is both an asset and a vulnerability for Lebanon. How can a system be developed that, while preserving the diversity and the specific identity of the country, is also democratic, equitable, accountable, and participatory? “In my view,” he said, “a decentralized system could be a reasonable and feasible option.”
- Those who are elected to govern the country should exercise their responsibility according to a code of ethics that stresses accountability, transparency, and rule of law.
- A conception of the state, along with the notion of central authority and rule of law, has almost been lost.
The Catholicos envisions a role for the UN with both short-term and long-term goals:
- Appealing to the international community and donor agencies to help Lebanon, especially in humanitarian aid, social assistance, health care, and education.
- Urging the Lebanese government to undertake serious reforms; organize elections, and enable state institutions to respond to the basic needs of the people.
- Encouraging the friends of Lebanon to help the country heal its wounds, recover its economic stability, and recover its political role in the international community.
In his concluding remarks, His Holiness said that the UN may warn the international community about the potentially disastrous, far-reaching consequences of a destabilized Lebanon. This, he said, called for practical steps that back up solidarity with concrete actions.
In addition to His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, meeting participants included His Beatitude Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rahi, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and Head of the Maronite Church; His Eminence Abdul Latif Derian, Sunni Grand Mufti; Judge Sheikh Mahdi El-Yahfoufi representing His Eminence Sheikh Ali Al-Khatib, Deputy Head of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council; His Beatitude Patriarch John X Yaziji, Patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Orthodox Church; His Eminence Sheikh Sami Abil Mona, and Druze Sheikh Aql, Head of the Druze Unitarian Council.