The International Maronite Foundation strongly supports the Patriarch
and the Council of Bishops on their strong statement calling on
the nation to address its relationship with Syria. It is time the
national dialogue began on the issue of Lebanese sovereignty and
the national government's exercise of its constitutional role. We
support the Patriarch and the bishops on their strong call on the
President and the Parliament to begin this national dialogue and
to engage the Syrians on a redefinition of the individual national
roles and responsibilities.
The Patriarch's call for open dialogue should be considered as
an opportunity to develop a consensus among the Lebanese body politic
to develop a working relationship centered on the concept of a "strategic
alliance" between Lebanon and Syria that would preserve their
individual sovereignty. The only beneficiaries of this definition
can only be a strengthening of the social and economic ties between
the two nations, and the development of a security alliance.
We believe in the right and duty of the Patriarch to teach and
preach to his people. He has the moral duty to set forth his thoughts
as well as the collective thoughts of the bishops of his church
on the circumstances and conditions that impact his people. He further
has the inalienable right to speak out to redress conditions of
wrong that he sees in his jurisdiction. This by no means contravenes
the national authority to govern, but sets out the opinion of the
church. It may be argued by some political leaders that this position
does not agree with every Maronite in Lebanon. This may be true.
However, the Patriarch and the Bishops carry the responsibility
of speaking out on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed.
The statement does not break new ground or reveal new positions.
These have been the positions of the Patriarch and the Bishops for
a long time. The forceful call on the government to act now is both
timely and proper. Further, the Foundation believes that it echoes
the desire of most of the citizens of Lebanon, regardless of their
religion. The time has come for the people of Lebanon to become
masters of their own destiny, while becoming a part of a comprehensive
security alliance in the region.
We urge the government of President Lahoud to take steps to refine
the definition of the relationship between Lebanon and Syria, and
to act according to the treaties and United Nations Resolutions
heretofore taken regarding Lebanon. We echo the position of the
Maronite League of Lebanon in that "The statement should be
an occasion to launch an honest national dialogue that deals with
the country's basic issues on the political and economic level,
as well as on the level of Lebanon's ties with Syria."