The Maronite Church in Today’s World
The Maronite Church and the Land
The Maronite Church and the land is one of the most primordial issues tackled in the framework of the Maronite Synod, which urged the Maronites to have a deeper appreciation of the land, for it was the dwelling place of their fathers and their forefathers and was bequeathed to us as a material and spiritual heritage. This heritage, as the nucleus around which the Maronite identity was formed, is threatened today by dispersion and by conflict resulting from numerous factors. This endangers the Maronite identity and makes it more susceptible to the threats of break up and of losing its historical and spiritual distinctiveness. For even if the Maronite wins the whole world but loses the land on which his historical identity was formed, he would have lost himself; and even if the Maronites spread throughout the regions of the world and achieve progress, advancement, prosperity and freedom, they would still yearn for and need a land that would embody a unique identity linking them to their deep-rooted history, a history of sainthood and struggle for survival and a history that bears witness to the faith and human values they stood for, through a long and rich experience.
Hence, we will first delve into the theological and historical constants in relation with the land and the necessity of preserving these constants pertaining to the Maronite identity. In the second place, we will describe the current situation and its consequences, and we will attempt to put together a strategy of preservation and investment. Finally, we will study the relation between the Maronites of the Expansion and their adopted land and how could they contribute in preserving their mother land, so that it remains the beacon of their cultural, human and religious uniqueness.
Chapter I : The Constants
First: The Fiducial and Theological Constants
The fiducial concept of the land is based on the teachings of the Holy Bible and on the conclusions of Christian theology founded on these teachings and on the mystery of the Divine Incarnation.
1. From the beginning, the Holy Bible has established a symbolic definition of the relation between Man and the Land. Man is the son of the land. He was molded from it. It is his mother and eventually he will return to her. Man was created to till the land, to exploit it and to rule it even if it yields him thorns because of his sin; and he has to eat his own bread from his own toil and sweat. (Gen. 1-3).
The Holy Bible tells us that God called upon Abraham to leave his land and to come to the land of Canaan. He called on him to till this land for Him and for his progeny so that they may worship Him and Him alone without the pagan idols. In this sense, the Bible continuously repeats that God calls upon His people to sanctify Him and to be sanctified in the land, which He has bequeathed to them. From here, the first dimension of the relation between individuals, peoples and the land that God has conferred on them is that of sanctity that is the worship of God, the growth in faith, human growth, and liberation from every idol and all kinds of polytheism.
On the other hand, God said to Abraham, “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12); meaning that that the divine blessing and the land heritage that was bequeathed to Abraham and his kin did not sanctify them alone. Rather they became blessings to others who did not receive this calling and who were not chosen. Consequently, the second dimension of the relation between individuals, peoples and the land that God has conferred on them is that of the mission, enlightenment and sharing with others the divine blessing that they received.
Hence, the first dimension is choice and inheritance for sanctity and growth, and the second dimension is the call for embarking on a mission of sharing the blessing with others.
2. Christian theology asserts that the Son of God, who has fulfilled with His Incarnation the history of salvation, has given us the full meaning to our relation with the land when He said, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth”. He, himself, lived meekly and modestly in a land that became with him the land of Divine Incarnation; and with its sanctification every corner of the Earth became sanctified and the Promised Land was no more a region of the World rather the Church became the new Promised Land, the Kingdom of God, where every Man can worship God in spirit and truth. (John 4:23).
With the Divine Incarnation, the land gained a value of salvation; thus, we should take care of it, preserve it, and respect it because it is no more a land belonging to Man alone but it has become the land of the Divine Incarnation. This theological understanding and concept of the land is carved in the Maronite spirit and that is what we look for in our liturgical prayers and in the writings of our blessed fathers.
That is why, we would like to assert here that the presence of the Church in the East is not perchance but is the result of a very precious divine gift that God granted for the same aforementioned purposes: that this land has been given to the Maronites by God as an inheritance so that they may be sanctified on it, grow on it, rid themselves from all idol adoration and to worship the one and only God on it. This alone vindicates the presence of the Maronites on the land of Lebanon, especially since they found in it a land that provides them with human and religious liberty and the ability to worship Christ and to coexist freely with others as much as the social and political circumstances and situations allow.
In this sense, the faith of the Church remains constant in our mission in this East and urges us not to forsake it; the patriarchs of the East in their numerous letters have also expressed this faith. The mission of passing on the blessing of God to our brothers who live with us on this land and to the peoples of the East, which the Pope called us to become members of, to carry its concerns and to enrich it. The Pope’s word is not a desire but an invitation, even more; it is a prophecy about the mission of Christians in our time. As for the brothers who left this land to graze in greener pastures and notwithstanding the reasons behind their emigration – old and new, they too are blessed in the land they live in. And, if they live this call to sanctification and testimony they too will be a blessing to their new land and to the people living in it.
Second : Spiritual and Human Constants
The land in our Tradition is not a possession that we dispose of freely; it is an inheritance from our fathers and our forefathers.
1. Dealing with this inheritance bonds us with the Creator as well as with the past generations that engraved their marks with sweat and blood. The relation that bonds us with our inherited land is a spiritual one; consequently the land gives us much more than material fruits and harvests. Through this relation we confirm our unique identity and we communicate with our history. Our land is truly a living memory and is, at the same time, a school that teaches us patience, hope, contentment, modesty, honesty, faithfulness, perseverance and courage. This is the greatest inheritance that our Maronite fathers bequeathed us especially their attachment to their land, their Church and their monasteries that taught them to favor austerity in their land rather than prosperity in a foreign land, and to resist all oppressions or temptations in order to stay in the land of their forefathers. Accordingly, the Maronite is marked with this ecclesiastical and spiritual trait that distinguishes him. The land contributes directly in the humanization of the Maronite Man and imprints on him its unique traits and qualities.
2. The pressures and adversities suffered might humanely justify the massive emigration of Maronites towards other countries that would host them and provide them with what they lacked in their land, but it deprives them at the same time from the spiritual communication with their land, history and civilization and exposes them to the danger of turning into a people with no constants and no roots. That is why; our Church is urging its sons and is encouraging them to remain in their land and to preserve it no matter what the sacrifices. The Maronite saints starting from Saint Maroun, the monk who lived in the wilderness, to Saint Charbel, Saint Rafqa and Saint Nemetallah teach us how to be patient and perseverant and how to stand witnesses to Jesus, who renounced his glory and became part of our land to sanctify us and to liberate us.
Third : Historical Constants
1. The Land: Creator of the Historical, Social and Political Identity
The history of the Maronites goes hand in hand with the history of Lebanon as a land and a nation, notwithstanding the geographical origin of the Maronites and their ancient and present distribution from Qoresh, Antioch, the banks of the Orontes (Arabic ‘Asi) north of Syria, to Cyprus, Palestine, Egypt, Europe, America, Africa and Australia at wide historical intervals and as a result of harsh religious, economic and political situations.
But, the historical identity of the Maronites, which cannot be renounced, originates in the Antiochean history, especially in Lebanon where the Maronite Church grew, developed and was rooted. The Maronite community was influenced by the environment and the geography where it lived. This land, that they cultivated and watered with toil and sweat, provided the Maronites with their basic needs for a decent life and protected them from the vicissitudes of time and oppressions. Hence, they were marked by it and in return, they sealed it with their faith.
As for the political identity of the Maronites, it first blossomed in Lebanon then in the rest of the countries of emigration. The Maronite political identity arises from the Maronites’ faith in God and their dependence on him, from their cultural and intellectual dynamism, their openness to different civilizations and peoples.
The Maronites have assembled a set of qualities deriving from their faith, in the first place, and then from their dealing with the land, in their rural agricultural society, these qualities being mainly honesty, faith, patience, hope, satisfaction, modesty, courage, determination, bravery, sacrifice, pride, solidarity and service.
2. The Land, a Nation and a Mission
The land is the nation and the entity; its importance lies in its values, experience and cultural and existential dimension. The Maronites’ openness to all of Lebanon and their coexistence with other confession springs from their fiducial and apostolic values. The land of the Maronites was not theirs alone; they hosted in it all those yearning for freedom and a decent life, on condition that the newcomers will not threaten their faith, freedom and existence. It was hence that Mount Lebanon was formed and consequently Lebanon, whose name was linked to the Maronites.
Lebanon, the land, was and still is the country where other people are always welcome, a country open to different groups, ready for life and cultural exchange, although history has brought about antagonisms and bloody conflicts at certain periods.
The Maronites considered every land they lived in as theirs and interacted with it without forgetting their homeland, especially Lebanon that remains in their spirits the land of their ancestors, saints and patriarchal authority.
3. The Land is a National and Collective Heritage: Preserving it is a way of preserving the Nation and its Minorities
The land has a fiducial value for Christians in general and Maronites in particular, and this value stems from their belief in Incarnation. Their collective memory is conscious of the importance of the cultural and historical buildup on their land. The land, to them, is a heritage and not a property to trade with or a possession to dispose of according to whim. From here their main concern was to transfer the land that was entrusted to their care intact to the coming generations without profligacy or modification: “God forbids that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” (Kings 1 21/3) From here originates the concept of waqfiyat in the Maronite families and what is known as the progenic waqf. Preserving the land means preserving the identity, and preserving the identity is a way of preserving entity, faith and continuity.
In the past, Maronites were known for their capacity to safeguard their land, for they worked in it from one generation to the other and were raised on the principles of caring for it and saving it. And, when the situations became insufferable, they abandoned it without selling it for it held the heritage and history of their fathers and ancestors. Hence, the “the principle of partnership” is reflected in the property of lands. Therefore it is important to highlight the necessity of creating awareness and establishing a system of continuous education targeting the youth and dealing with the spiritual and moral value of the land, which supersedes its material value, and with the necessity of investing in the land in modern ways instead of selling it.
4. The Maronite Church and the Land Yesterday and Today
The Maronites sanctified the land and became sanctified through it. They used it in their similes and included it in their prayers. They even instituted “agricultural” feast days such as the feast day of Our Lady of Al Zourou’ (Our Lady of the Crop) and the feast day of Our Lady of Al Hasad (Our Lady of the Harvest). All the Maronites used to work the land, from patriarchs to bishops to monks to laymen. The land was a school of life and of spirit to them; and they used to raise the Maronite youth on these principles. The Maronite Church, later the feudal lords, adopted the system of partnership in order to invest its lands and exploit it and in order to prompt Maronites who have no land to work in the land. Despite the drawbacks of this system and despite its poor implementation sometimes – which drove a large number of Maronites to migrate to the cities or to emigrate – it led to the formation of entire villages that stemmed from monasteries.
The transformation of the Maronite society from a rural agricultural society to an urban commercial, industrial and service-oriented one has had a negative impact on the morality, spirituality and traditions of the Maronites. Their priorities changed, from working in order to get the basic necessities (“A content farmer is a hidden sultan”) to seeking luxury and comfort albeit on the expense of their conscience, integrity and human and Christian principles. A return to the roots is also a return to the land that should be worked by using modern methods and technologies in the context of an advanced strategy.
Working in the land, before being of a beneficial or sportive nature, is a Christian and spiritual value. Throughout their history, the Maronites have been faithful to the monastic code “pray and work”.
History stands witness that all the ancient monasteries as well as archbishoprics and parish churches owned awqaf and properties in which the monks, Maronites and bishops toiled with the faithful people, all partners at work. After the re-organization of the monastic life towards the end of the 17th century, the monastic orders concentrated their efforts on the land; monks became agricultural pioneers - even princes requested their help in order to teach their subjects how to read, write and care for the land.
This labor partnership between monks, priests and bishops on one hand and the faithful on the other, has impacted on the life of the people, adding to it a spiritual dimension, drawn from the example of their clergymen and monks. This partnership extended to chorus prayer, the Eucharist and worships. This was the essence of the unity of the Maronite Church in its spirituality and traditions. Today we know the value of what we have lost. Our neglect of the land, our migration to the city and our quest for an unbalanced development and growth unrelated to the land cost the Maronites a lot of their historical values, weakened their unity and alienated them from their spirituality. That is why it is essential to return to the land and to revive the spirit of partnership and unity between the clergy, the monks and the believers through modern and advanced methods.
Fourth : Environmental Constants
1. From the Emotional and Spiritual Point of View
On the sixth day of Creation “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1/31) “…And he rested on the seventh day” (Gen. 2/2). After God gave man dominion over all the creatures (1/2/, 26/19), man ruined what God has “made…very good” and ruined his relation with God through the original sin; and, then he ruined nature and damaged it with his actions.
The Maronite entered into an emotional relation with the land and preserved it because it is, in the first place, part of God’s good work and, second, because it preserves him, nourishes him and keeps him safe. The land is the mother of every living being: “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 2/19) and it is sacred because it holds the remains of the fathers, the forefathers and the saints.
2. From the Natural Point of View
Environment is the milieu in which Man lived and is living – past, present and future. In the past, the Maronite knew how to preserve his natural milieu without disfiguring it. He took recourse in the elements of nature when he worked, built his house, lived and ate. But, the Maronite of today, just like the consumer society in which he lives, is generally selfish and thinks only of himself without giving a thought about the generations that will come after him.
On the other hand, the desertification resulting from cutting down trees and not re-planting any, has led to the impoverishment of the Lebanese and Maronite rare natural heritage. The scarce number of cedar trees left in Lebanon, those same cedar trees that the Holy Bible extolled and praised, is a tragic tale.
Furthermore, the haphazard use of non-degradable material and littering lead to the scarring of nature on the long term; adding to that, a lack of environmental awareness and education within families and schools.
3. From the Health Point of View
Man is the outcome of his environment, which in return impacts on Man’s health, in a negative or positive way. The health of the rural Maronite is undoubtedly different from the urban one! The quality of life of the Maronite of the past was sounder than the Maronite of today. Pollution resulting from the mechanized and industrialized culture reflects negatively on the health of Man, who is yet unaware of the environmental hazards that threaten him present and future and that are but the consequences of his neglect, his selfishness and his quest for material gain.
4. From the urban and patrimonial point of view
The civilization of concrete that replaced the traditional Maronite architecture and the old architecture characterized by its vaulted stones, tells about our ignorance of our heritage and our lack of aesthetic sense. How many churches or magnificent old houses were razed to the ground in order to build a more modern church or house, more in tune with the civilization of concrete? The Maronites of yesterday knew how to mold nature and how to preserve the constructional and traditional environment by using the elements of nature to preserve it from stone buildings through clay and plaster ceilings and red-tiled roofs.
Chapter II : The Land, Status Quo and Aspiration
After highlighting the constants in the first part, we will now picture the present situation, with an attempt to draw a plan aimed at limiting the negative effects of today’s situation. Our Church should then be able to assess the present in order to lay down o new vision of land exploitation and preservation, more in tune with the fiducial and historical constants. The objective would be to provide future generations with good opportunities of sane and balanced growth and a decent life in respect with the heritage of their fathers and forefathers.
First : The present situation
Our Church contemplates apprehensively the present situation on our land, in the countries within the patriarchal context, in general, and in Lebanon, in particular. This apprehension increases in the light of a constant emigration flow from the homeland and the neglect and sale of land, considered as a real estate asset. In some countries, governments nationalized private lands and consequently deprived Christians, like others, of their sacred right. And in other countries, due to war and displacement, the Christians were obliged to move away from their land. This drove them and is driving them to abandon it, to neglect it or to sell it, as is the case in Cyprus, Lebanon and Palestine. If this trend persists, it will force us to draw a serious question mark over the Christian future in the East, in general, and the Maronites, in particular; and in the case of Lebanon, over the mission of that country and the free and interactive religious coexistence that characterizes Lebanon. Maronity without a land is like Christianity without the Transfiguration.
Statistics have shown that the Christians of Lebanon, during the last thirty years, have lost a large portion of their lands. There are regions that have become quasi void of effective Christian existence and a big part of them have been sold to non-Christians of Lebanese and non-Lebanese origins. Also, the interest in buying lands in regions known to have been historically Christian regions by non-Christians and foreigners is increasing day after day. The land is almost metamorphosing from a sacred inheritance bequeathed to Man by God into a commercial merchandise in search for fast gain. Perhaps the biggest issue, for the Lebanese in general and Maronite Christians in particular, is the migration from the villages to the city in search for employment and education lured by the possibilities of scientific and social growth and by the means of leisure and entertainment available in the city. This trend that developed in the middle of the 20th century led to the neglect of lands, left unexploited and a careless attitude as to their material and moral value. Consequently, the bond between the Maronite and his land, the land of his ancestors and his inheritance, was broken and he drifted away from his rural heritage and his values that stem from his relation with his land; values such as honesty, sincerity, satisfaction and sound interaction with his human and natural milieu. Moreover, leaving the land and neglecting led to physical as well as moral transformation, the spread of diseases resulting from urban pollution and the neglect of traditions and customs. Alienating oneself from nature often leads to the alienation of the human being from his roots, for he is the son of nature and in it he finds his health and his psychological and moral equilibrium.
The Maronite is certainly an ambitious and adventurous human being, eager for development and progress. This characteristic has made him a traveler, which, for its beneficial effects, means also cutting loose from his environment, history and land. The question is whether Maronites would remain Maronites if they forsake their land and their historical landmarks? How is it possible to conciliate their adaptation to the world and their geographical expansion, while preserving their land, values, heritage and mission. For that to be, it is inevitable to draft guidelines or a comprehensive developmental strategy.
Second : A Comprehensive Developmental Strategy to Preserve the Land
A comprehensive developmental strategy should be based on the aforementioned situation. The negative factors that led to the neglect, abandonment and sometimes sale of the land should be taken into consideration. The Maronite community underwent a swift transformation during the second half of the past century from an agricultural society to a service-oriented one. Traditional agriculture is no more sufficient to keep up with the process of education, social development and global openness. The state, instead of caring for the farmers and supporting them in order to encourage them to stay in their natural milieu while keeping up with the process of development, neglected them and didn’t provide them with the modern means to facilitate their work, increase their production and find external markets to promote exportation. Farmers was left alone without any support or orientation or compensation when struck by natural catastrophes and when their harvest is destroyed. Knowing that the majority of the Lebanese, among them the Maronites, are small landowners, their standard income from agriculture is not sufficient anymore to meet the increasing needs and demands of education, hospitalization and housing. Thus, they began searching for jobs and services that could provide them with a steady income and education and hospitalization benefits.
Calling for the Maronites to return to their land will remain wishful thinking without any positive echo unless we base it on a vision or a comprehensive developmental strategy having agriculture as one of its components. Development is a set of mental and social changes aimed at increasing the gross product in a regular and scientific way. It is part of a political vision, expressed in social and economic choices on a long-term basis. That is why all forces should join hands: state, Church and institutions to draft this strategy.
The following points are the most important to focus and shed light on:
The State should become aware of the importance of the land and should commit to preserving it and to helping farmers in better exploiting it. It also should prevent its sale to strangers by ensuring the good enforcement of the law concerning foreign appropriation. This way it will put an end to chaotic real estate speculations that marked the last thirty years and led to an outrageous transfer of lands in some regions from one confession to another. This will take place only if the State is aware of the importance of coexistence and interaction between the Lebanese.
The Church, with its laymen who are responsible of the policies of the nation and its spiritual authority, should mobilize the official administrations to actively implement this long-term strategy of preserving and investing in the land. It should also undertake all possible initiatives starting from the private property of the Church and in cooperation with the laymen to establish efficient agricultural cooperatives that will encourage farmers and especially the youth to return to the villages and to rural areas in order to exploit their land in a new and efficient manner. These cooperatives can develop the old idea of partnership that was in force between the awqaf and the monasteries, on one hand, and laymen, on the other.
The State and the Church should cooperate to provide the educational, hospitalization and service institutions in rural regions with the possibility of establishing small factories to provide work for the inhabitants of rural areas so that these areas will not be emptied of its inhabitants, cities crowded and the land neglected.
The cooperation between the Church and the State is also necessary to amend the laws of awqaf and to simplify the real estate procedures to preserve the lands or exploit it in better ways.
The Church should seek along with foreign institutions such as the European market and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) to benefit from world experiences in exploiting the lands according to the diversification of climate and environment. Agricultural rationing and its diversification and the possible manufacturing of agricultural products have all become necessities for saving the agriculture and developing it.
Developing the woodlands will efficiently contribute in safekeeping the environment and in encouraging tourism and aestivation. There are green areas that should be preserved and other barren areas that should be forested. Hence, cooperation between Church and state is necessary in order to develop this natural resource and to increase the number of natural reserves and woodlands.
There are a lot of lands that could be agriculturally exploited if irrigation water was made available. That is why we should benefit from the rain and snow that God grants us throughout the winter season, and that burst into springs that run throughout our land, by building dams and ponds to collect this water and exploit it in the service of agriculture.
The most important, for the preservation and exploitation of the land, is for us to know its value and to raise the new generation on loving it and preserving it. That is why an integrated educational policy should be established starting from the family passing by schools and universities, whether public or private. This policy aims at acquainting the new generations with the nature of our land and its richness and to promote and encourage the successful agricultural expertise, to organize seminars related to the land and the heritage and to publish books, magazines and all means of knowledge that deal with nature and other traditions. Furthermore, planning agricultural festivals is a way to give incentives to the youth and encouraging them to participate in harvest seasons. It is one of the most successful methods of creating awareness on the value and nurturing the love of the land.
It is urgent, for the sake of preserving the lands and putting a halt to their sale, to establish a cooperative fund, a real estate company or a private bank under the supervision of the Maronite Patriarchate, funded by wealthy Christians in Lebanon and in the countries of emigration. This bank works not for profit or investment but to save the real estates that are put to sale by mortgaging them or lending its owners the money they need. This bank, if provided with means, will also contribute in reviving towns and villages that suffered from the displacement of its inhabitants during the war by establishing pioneer agricultural projects in different regions. Without such intervention, the lands will be sold and the Maronite Church will lose through time a big part of what is left of its survival elements.
Chapter III : The Land and the Maronite Emigrants
The Maronite Emigrants living outside the scope of the Patriarchate of Antioch share with the contemporary man all the dimensions of human life and its values. They are aware of the global problems resulting from industrial progress that are threatening all the children of the Earth with pollution, diseases, and invasion of the space protecting our planet from rays and toxic gases. They are also aware of the importance of the relation between man, nature and land and the necessity of having a safe agricultural produce and the influence of that on the physical and spiritual health of Man and its direct repercussions on his spirituality and his future. This plane forms a meeting point between the Maronite Emigrants and their brethren living in the patriarchal lands as well as with all bearers of goodwill to work in order to safe keep the land and the environment as a joint global wealth and a public good for all humanity. The contemporary Man is convinced to belong to a unified world. The different means of communication as well as the advanced means of knowledge have contributed in bridging the distances between continents and linking the poles of the Earth with each other; the Man of today realizes that he is no more the citizen of one country but rather that the entire world has become his country.
Perhaps the Maronite, due to his presence in more than one pole of the world, is experiencing the reality of this comprehensiveness more than others. But, the contemporary Man has started understanding the importance of historical and cultural heritage and the fact that the world of today is the heir of this accumulation that was left behind by previous generations. That is why Man should preserve his roots rather than be uprooted, so that the present can keep in touch with the past to feed on its richness and to grow by maintaining its originality and distinctiveness. Starting from this point, the Maronite Synod addresses all the Maronite emigrants and members of the Maronite Church in its Expansion countries, to remind them that they are the torch bearers of a unique mission springing from their relation with their adopted land and their homeland.
First : The Relation Between the Maronite Emigrants and their Adopted Land
The spread of the Maronites all over the world could be considered as a source of wealth to them and to the world. Maronites are bearers of a spiritual and human heritage wherever they go. The historical experience of the fathers and forefathers and their relation to the land, which they sanctified and were sanctified in turn by the truthful and honest interaction with it, remains carved in the spirits of the sons. The human entity is a result of the accrual of natural data and spiritual experiences passed on from one generation to the other that will mold in time the unique character of a people or a nation.
On the basis of what was mentioned in the first section concerning the fiducial and historical constants of Maronites, it is valid to say that the Maronite, wherever he may be, will always be affected spiritually and behaviorally by these constants throughout many generations. The Maronite emigrants should be aware of these constants so that their love for their adopted land in the countries to which they belong today be faithful and honest. It is a land that hosted them and helped them build a future and a family. It provided them, in some cases, with what the homeland failed to provide their fathers and forefathers: easy life, comfort, guarantees, perhaps also fame and fortune. It is their duty, hence, and it is the right of this land that they be faithful to it and that they love it and that their destiny be linked to it because it embraces them and allows them to achieve their ambitions and to build a promising future for them and their children. In this new land, the Maronites express their faith in God according to rites and rituals they inherited from their ancestors and they stand witness to the fiducial and spiritual dimensions rooted in them. This way they transfer the wealth of their tradition and their faith to the children of this land and they contribute in sanctifying them and in enriching them and in transmitting the Christian Good News perhaps to other people and in being a live testimony of the wealth of the East Christian heritage which they are descendants of and to which they belong.
Second : The Relation of the Maronite Emigrants with Their Homeland
1. Present situation
The number of Maronite emigrants is twofold that of those in the homeland. The historical situations that drove a large number of them to leave their land and their country were a case of force majeure due to wars, oppressions and economic constraints. Few were those who decided to emigrate willingly while many had to leave their country in search of work and decent living in faraway countries. The suffering of the first generations in the countries of emigration and the dangers and hardships endured are still vivid in the minds of grandchildren and are a source of pride to them. The tale of Maronite emigration also draws a touching human experience that stirs the emotions and reminds of a past that is worth noting in the contemporary history of the Maronites.
Those first emigrants were coerced to leave their country not because of parents they loved or a land they were dedicated to serve, but due to strenuous circumstances. That is why their nostalgia to their country remained strong as well as their sympathy to their parents; and they provided the latter with help whenever it was possible. They raised their sons and grandsons to love their homeland, the homeland of their patriarchate and their saints, and to express nostalgia for it. When they were followed by new waves of emigrants, they welcomed them and saved them some of the sufferings they underwent before them. It is valid to say that the process of emigration since the first half of the 19th century until today is still standing even if the circumstances and reasons have varied; this emigration is still empathetic to the problems of the homelands and still sympathizes with those living in them and is willing to contribute in finding life solutions to its inhabitants in the framework of programmed and feasible plans. From here, along with personal initiatives, it is indispensable to draft a practical plan to encourage the emigrants to keep on supporting the countries of emigration and to benefit of this support the best they can in order to preserve the land, to exploit it and to consolidate those living in it. Knowing that such plan should be beneficial also to the emigrants.
2. Practical Plan
Any plan of the sort should be based, first and foremost, on comprehensive quantitative and qualitative statistics. Hence, a specialized committee should be formed for that purpose. It must then be followed by regular and constant relations between the Patriarchate and the different Maronite communities in the world to benefit from the modern means available to ensure such relations. These relations help the Maronites of the world staying informed of the official position of their Church on different issues and of the situation in their homeland, while maybe inspiring them with plans of action to help serve the mother land.
As for the land, there is a big opportunity for the emigrants to contribute in preserving it and in exploiting it. For example, the establishment of a twinning between the emigrants and their home villages or cities, according to which developmental projects would be established, so that the emigrants would have the opportunity to contribute and own land or houses. Emigrants, especially the youth, could be encouraged to come to their homeland and spend long vacations in it with well studied programs to enroll them in possible agricultural seasons, like harvest for example, and to acquaint them with their intellectual, folkloric and ritual heritage and with the current potentials available in Maronite universities from which they can benefit or to which they can be of benefit.
Such projects would inevitably encourage the residents and would consolidate the cultural heritage in emigrants so that the relation with the homeland would not be a mere link through nostalgia and memories but would be given an existing dimension and would expand the relations of kinship and friendship with the homeland and with the families in this homeland.
It is natural that the ecclesiastical, monastic, civil and social institutions participate in organizing a cultural tour for emigrants to inform them about their honorable heritage and the beauty and diversity of nature as well as to acquaint them with the historic sites that are considered as important to Maronites.
The bond between the Maronite and his land is a sacred and vital one; for it is at the same time a bond with the values and the material, moral, spiritual and ethical heritage. The land is a magnet that attracts the Maronite to his history and his roots and provides him with aspects of his religious and cultural identity and belonging. If we have concentrated on Lebanon, it is not because the other homelands are less important but rather because the Lebanese entity is closely linked with the Maronites and because the latter have taken, since the establishment of their Church, Lebanon as their headquarter and moved their Patriarchate to it. Lebanon has become the land of rebirth, of sanctity and at the same time the land of Christian martyrdom that is open to dialogue and coexistence with other Christian and non-Christian confessions. Its land has become, in spite of the many wars waged on it, the land of free common life. It is the land of the country whose mission should be preserved so that the dialogue between civilizations and religions will always have a place whose history is characterized with common life and coexistence and whose calling is characterized with dialogue.