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You can’t sit on the fence

There is a school of thought that insists that neutrality will help the oppressor, never the victim; that doing nothing when others suffer tars the onlooker with the same brush that is wielded by the tyrant. Be it with the playground bully or the ruthless despot, to intervene or speak out in the face of torment or humiliation is the mark of the humane, the morally strong and clear-sighted.
 
Being “humane,” “morally strong” and “clear sighted.” They are all cornerstones of the Christian faith, but evidently not according to Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai, who in Cairo earlier this week once again demonstrated his lack of moral fiber by boasting that his church has not taken sides in the year-long upheavals across the Middle East that have become known as the Arab Spring.
 
“We Christians have been in this Levant for 2,000 years,” Rai said during a meeting with Catholic Coptic Patriarch Cardinal Antonius Najib. “We have shaped it with our culture and values, and we are open to all regimes that reach power through democracy.”
 
That was only part of Rai’s head-spinning statement that said everything and nothing. The Patriarch lurched from contradiction to contradiction, his argument riddled with as many holes as Swiss cheese. “The Church does not reject or support [any regime], and is not the one that appoints regimes. Rather, it cooperates with all the regimes on the basis of principles, at the forefront of which are human dignity, human rights, public freedoms and democracy,” he added, clearly ignoring the obvious contradictions when one sets these values against the actions of the Syrian regime.
 
The obedient among his flock will always drink the Kool-Aid, but those who look to the office of the patriarch as a moral beacon in a region where morality is often an absent guest at the dinner table, and who refuse to be bamboozled by Rai’s hallucinogenic balloon juice, will have concluded that the Patriarch has either lost his moral compass or taken a calculated position in support of a regime that has become an international outcast. It is a position he can only defend by throwing out shameful chaff about not taking sides.
 
His craven words come on the heels of other infamous remarks, the most bizarre being that Syria was the Middle Eastern country closest to true democratic principles. The other was that he did not want to see the Arab Spring turn to “winter.”
 
The first he justified with the argument that all other countries in the region are defined by Islamic principles – a comment no doubt designed to appeal to the more bigoted members of his flock – but one only need refer to the Syrian constitution to show that Rai is wrong. However, the fact that he even takes Syria’s electoral system seriously and can call for a peaceful resolution to the conflict via a bogus ballot box again demonstrates either whopping naivety or support for the regime.
 
But it is his apparent fear of a so-called Arab Winter that is the most cynical and shameful, wrapped as it is in the metaphorical vestments of his office. The Patriarch wants dialogue where none exists, and even more disturbing, appears to lay the blame for upheaval at the doorstep of those seeking change. As he so famously said, “We are open to all regimes that reach power through democracy.” But what if, as in Syria, the regime refuses democracy, offering instead bloody repression? To follow Rai’s advice and avoid the Arab Winter is to admit defeat and back down.
 
His focus is on one small corner of the canvas. He is ignoring nearly 10,000 dead, including innocent men, women and children who have been slaughtered in their pursuit of democracy. Rai should take sides. No one is asking him to interpret the political ramifications. We are simply asking him to recognize the inhumanity being visited on a population that simply wants freedom. It’s not much to ask from a supposed man of God.

  • ali daoud

    sami, you are confusing issues, yes, i a nation such as Iran it is better to force Hijab, however, in a state like France it is too bad to forbid Hijab. at the end, the Iranian people have voted for an Islamic system, however, the so called secular western free system in France is forbidding personal freedoms. please, it`s about time you get it! more, you are absolutely wrong about Iran, all religions practice their faith freely in Iran, meaning jews and Christians and Sunnis practice very freely, go visit Iran before you speak of a place you ignore, go and see the Christians who are allowed to drink alcohol inside their homes by law, and then visit Turkey and make a tour around the burned churches which are forbidden of being renovated since WWI, that is the "secular" Turkey you admire. look, i accept that you compare the "secular" Turkey with the" religious" Iran!!!!

    March 29, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, as usual you did not understand my comment about France. The point is, you can not pick and choose what to compare between Iran system and France's system. Under France's system you may lose some small freedoms in some areas, but you have absolute freedoms in most other areas. Compare this to near "zero" freedoms in all areas in Iran. Send a letter to Rai and Michel Aoun tell them that you think it is better to force christians to wear hijab.

    March 29, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, we are not talking about politics here. We are talking about freedom of religion! you are mixing the subjects. Iran is the worst country in the world behind Saudi Arabia when it comes to freedom of religion. The whole world knows this. The man in Iran was sentenced to death because he converted to Christianity. WHAT MORE PROOF YOU WANT? and not to mention what the Islamic Republic of ayatollahs did to Bahais and Yazidis and Sunnis and other religious sects. I advise you to be quite on this subject. Don't fight a losing battle!

    March 29, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, saudi arabia needs thousand years to reach the level of Iran. i compared Iran with the most "democratic" states in the world such as France where they forced Muslim woman to take off their Hijab which is much worse than forcing one to wear a Hijab. such example shows that Freedom is not unlimited in the most free countries, and as France is making the legislations that suit their society, Iran too has the right to make the legislations that suit them. sami, i am glad you mentioned Turkey, and i advise you to make a tour in Turkey and watch the still standing burned churches across Turkey and which are not allowed to be fixed or renovated since the WWI. i am glad you mentioned Egypt too where, even in Mubarak times and untill now, it is so hard if not impossible for Christians there to fix or paint or renovate their churches where such operation requires a highly sophisticated bureaucratic process which requires years to accomplish, if ever. truth is, Arabs still need 1000 years.

    March 28, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, where did i praise the french system? man, do i always have to re-explain? i said that forcing Hijab on all in Iran is much better than forbidding it for some as in France, and here let`s not forget that France is known to be the role model for democracy!!! 2nd, not only me and Rai are aganist the Muslim Brotherhood, again, review the statements by the Head of Police in Dubai, the statements of the Governor of Sharjah in UAE, the statements by many liberals and nationals and secualrs in Tunisia, Egypt and the whole arab world. habibi, what is the achievement of the MB? they agreed to be part of a deal in many countries where they get the high positions without ruling actually, they left the true leadership for the armies in Tunisia and Egypt, yet, if they continue this way they will fail and loose the next elections because they agreed to be a DECOR. add, the most important thing for me is the MB position toward israel and the Palestinians, nothing has changed after Mubarak!!

    March 28, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, it is so wonderful to see you praising the French system. That's great. Follow France's lead! The point is that you and Rai are trying to scare people from the muslim brotherhood in Syria while supporting and praising the Iranian regime, which is one of the most autocratic, exclusionary, and religious fanatic regimes in the world! Only Saudi regime is worst than that in Iran (happy?)

    March 28, 2012

  • Sami

    So Majd you are saying it is better to force a christian woman to wear the burka or shador than to let her freely chose not to wear them!. They call this logic in arabic logic "inkishari". You don't read well. I said Iran is for sure better for christians than Saudi Arabia. You seem to always run away from the main issue to some political nonsense. But I will let the readers decide where christians have more freedoms in Iran or countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Tunis, and yes Turkey as well.

    March 28, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, Iran is much better than all those you mentioned in Egypt and tunisia and jordan regarding the Christians, Egypt has 10% Christian population and we all know how Christains are treated over there, go ask an egyptian Christian about that, and even if Iran forces the Hijab, it forces it on all Iranians not only Christians, and here there is no discrimination. and please let`s not forget that in France and most of Europe Muslim women CANNOT wear the Hijab in public places and universities , and for me, forcing the Hijab on all is much better than forbidding it for some. add that, Islamists are not running anything yet in Egypt, it seems you don`t follow the news, read in today`s papers how the Muslim Brotherhood are threatening to go to the streets if the Military Council doesn`t cancel the current government and form a new one, so what is that the Islamists are running in Egypt?!!! yes, many of them got the title of "Parliament Member"!!!!!

    March 27, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Sami, and can a Muslim woman go out without a Hijab? answer is no, so both Muslim woman and Christian women are the same. 2nd, yes, Christians can drink alcohol inside their homes in Iran. 3rd, the Parliament includes Chritians Iranian members as well as a jew one even though jews amount to 25,000 only. let`s be logical sami, the Christians in Iran do not constitute 1 %, so you cannot expect they will hold high positions, they have their representatives in the Parliament and do hold minor positions and it`s fair. no, it`s not like in saudi arabia, huge difference and let your hate for iran not blind you, just few days ago the Grand Muft of saudi arabia issued a fatwa calling for the destruction of all churches in the arab world especially in Kuwait and UAE similar to what Qaradawi has called for, and that`s why officials in UAE are attacking both qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood and the saudi Wahhabism, you may review what Dahi Khlafan the head of Dubai Police has stated.

    March 27, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, where did I say Saudi Arabia is better than Iran? you say Iranian christians are free to practice their religion. Yes to some point it is true. Is this all they have of rights? can a christian woman walk out of her house without a burka on her head? can christians in Iran sing and dance and have concerts and drink alcohol? can they hold high positions in the goverment? and yes this is just like in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian man Youcef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death because he converted to christianity. It is true that Iran is better than Saudi Arabia when it comes to christians. But why not compare iran to other countries? How about you compare Iran to Egypt and Tunis and Jordan? those countries have islamists running those countries. You tell me, do christians in Iran have more rights than christians in Egypt and Tunis and Jordan?????

    March 27, 2012

  • irony

    My best friends are Christians that's classic good one majd.

    March 27, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, it`s obvious that sectarianism flows in your blood, you even couldn`t stand the fact that a Muslim is supporting the Christian Patriarch, habibi, my best friends are Christians and all i care about is their position toward israel. now, about the Christian Iranians, well, if i were you i would advise them to go and live in your lovely saudi arabia, there, no one would know they are Christians in the first place!!!!! add that, how did you conclude that Christians aren`t having their full rights in iran?! Christians are free to practice their religion in Iran, you should go visit first before you speak about something you ignore, the issue of the converted iranian - if true - is another story. last, once you reach the level of Iran in all aspects, come here and criticize it, and let`s not forget that nobody is perfect, however, some are excellent, others are good, while others might be so backward and primitive and ignorants.

    March 26, 2012

  • on neutral

    sami when Al Rai claims that the second most bloodthirsty regime in the region is the most democratic he's not being neutral is he. What's more is that he bases this claim on the fact that the regime's constitution is not based on Islamic jurisprudence, he must have missed Article 3 of the new constitution. Come to think of it the first and second most bloodthirsty regimes in the region quench their thirst on Arab blood.

    March 26, 2012

  • Sami

    majd, Iran denies the Iranian christians their rights and treat them as second class citizens. the other day a man in Iran converted to christianity and as a result of his conversion he was sentenced to death! so are you going now to fght side by side with Rai to get those christians their rights? (...)

    March 26, 2012

  • Sami

    Strange that this site supports neutrality in the Arab/Israeli conflict but does not support Al Rai's neutrality.

    March 26, 2012

  • ckabbouche

    Give the man a chance he will do good by all LEBANESE

    March 26, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, if you love Rai so much and you think he is correct, why don't you convert to christianity and become a christian under his gown? this way you would move from under one gown to go under another.

    March 26, 2012

  • jabalamel

    Majd what do you know sami is following your lead, you've been saying nothing for years. You're a good teacher.

    March 25, 2012

  • stand by your word

    The Patriarch is evaluating a situation where he has all needed details, no unknowns here, all is known... MAJD as you admit, you were foolish (no mystery) to regularly criticize Patriarch Sfeir because the Patriarch cared about his people much more than you did, and he knew details much more than you did, and he had proofs much more than you do, and he cared about humanity much more than you do, he surely had secret information of which you have none (you still don''t), therefore, you were/are in no suitable situation to evaluate his decisions. So please keep your self diagnosed ignorance to yourself, that is if you stand by what you wrote, thank you.

    March 25, 2012

  • Mick

    Patriarch al-Rai's outlook on many issues in Lebanon, is so different from his predecessor, Sfeir. I sensed Sfeir, was more wise and open, in his decision making, where as, al-Rai is shorted sighted and fixed to his views. Obviously, the interests and concerns of his community is top priority. But the approach al-Rai is taking is wrong. That the survival of the christian communites in lebanon hinges on a tyrical dictator, is definately short shorted. I've always loved my country due to its colourful religions and sects. I can't imagine lebanon without the christian communites and I am a sunni. Lebanon belongs to the christians as much as any other community and this will always be the case. The christians shouldn't be afraid.

    March 25, 2012

  • Jennifer

    It's clear that the author is Lebanese because he/she doesn't understand the concept of separation of church and state. It is precisely because he is a man of God that he should stay out of it. He should not comment whatsoever, it isn't his job. Praying for the dead and displaced is fine, but taking sides in a political conflict is totally inappropriate. Keep publishing foolish opeds like this and you're going to lose a reader.

    March 25, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Sami, sorry sami, you said nothing.

    March 24, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, you told us the same thing about Sheikh Hameeed and Sheikha Moza before - and now you hate them. You told us the same thing about Walid Jumblat before and now you hate him. You told us before that Aoun is zionist tool and traitor and should be hanged, and now you love him. what's going on here?

    March 24, 2012

  • mounzer

    Again what spring, spring of the return to the desert, Spring of backwardness and sectarianism, spring of the unholy shouting his name, may God send you all the enlighten ones to where he is going to send this spring ,so you can leave us alone once and for all

    March 24, 2012

  • الياس بجاني

    No to all Al Raei's Stances Without any masks, as a Lebanese Active Maronite in Canada I am openly and loudly calling on the Maronites in Canada to boycott this derailed clergymen's visit. He actually does not represent us or resemble us in any way or means. His shamefuul pro hezbollah and pro Assad stances are big sins. Below is call that posted on my lccc site ... To the the Maronites in Canada: Say a big No to Bchara Al Raei and Boycott his unwanted and evil visit . Elias Bejjani /This man, Patriarch Al Raei has sided with the Axis of evil and is boldly and openly supporting the Syrian butcher AlAssad and the terrorist Iranian Hezbollah. You Maronite in Canada, Say No, honor your martyrs, respect your identity, history and faith. Boycott Al Raei's visit to Canada. Tell him that he does not represent us we the Maronites and he is not the conscience of our great Lebanon like the 76 Maronite Patriarchs all through 1600 years. No he does not resemble us. No we

    March 24, 2012

  • ali daoud

    alsidani, the Patriarch cares about his people much more than you do, and he knows details much more than you do, and he got proofs much more than you do, and he cares about humanity much more than you do, he surely has secret information of which you have none, therefore, you are in no suitable situation to evaluate his decision, if the Patriarch is declaring a political opinion then you can discuss and agree or disagree, but here the Patriarch is evaluating a war situation where he has all needed details, no unknowns here, all is known.

    March 23, 2012

  • Sami

    Religious clergy should not involve themselves in politics. If they want to be politicians, they should run in elections. By interfering in politics, they do a disservice for their religion and for politics. We've had enough of them in this country. They failed to instill in their people the true meaning of religion and religious tolerance. We seem to be living in pre historic age with these people interfering in our lives. I wonder why the media pay so much attention to what mufti or patriarch says! how do you feel when you see a religious "holy" man shaking hands with criminal politicians and blessing them and smiling with them and having lunch with them? what example are they setting for their people to follow?

    March 23, 2012

  • alsidani

    their is a say about nazi germany that go like this by a catholic priest first they came for the jews i did nothing then the gays i did nothing then te gypsies i did nothing then for the infirms and retarded i did nothing then they came for me and nobody was left to help me you have to stand for your belief on day one !

    March 23, 2012