Sfeir: The stroke of the pen will not eliminate sectarianism

Before departing from Rafik Hariri International Airport to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Sunday, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir said that sectarianism cannot be eliminated just by “the stroke of the pen.” His statement came in response to recent calls from officials, including President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to form a national commission that would put an end to political sectarianism in Lebanon.

“Before it can be removed from [official] records it should be eliminated first from people’s souls… if anyone can do that, they are welcome to try,” Sfeir said.

The patriarch expressed hope that the Lebanese will agree on keeping the country free, independent and capable of sovereignty.

Sfeir also said that Israel is an established state and has supporters, while Lebanon is a small state in comparison and cannot confront Israel on its own. He said that Lebanon needs to have sway with the major powers, who can put a limit on Israeli aggression.

The patriarch said that the “Resistance has tried” to combat Israeli aggression, but he does not know if it has succeeded.

He said that he does not object to President Sleiman’s comments on the eve of Independence Day which affirmed the Resistance is legitimate as long as it works alongside the army and the Lebanese people to confront Israel.

In response Sfeir said, “I do not know if there are many countries with an armed resistance and an army,” but the general rule [that the two do not usually co-exist] is known around the world.

The patriarch also said there is a difference between Hezbollah’s arms and the weapons of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, Sfeir said he does not need to reconcile with anyone, and that Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s statement Wednesday that he does not need mediation with the patriarch, confirms his position. Sfeir and Aoun’s relationship were further soured when the FPM signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah in 2006.

Sfeir said he welcomes any reconciliation, adding  that the Lebanese should reconcile with each other and with their country, to achieve prosperity for Lebanon.

He also said, “Questions about me visiting Syria are old… we bless anyone who visits the country.” 

-NOW Lebanon