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Religious leaders gather to offer support for resistance

Summit condemns Israeli 'war crimes'

By Maroun Khoury

Daily Star staff

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Retrieved from Daily Star on August 2, 2006



BKIRKI: Christian and Muslim religious leaders gathered at Bkirki Tuesday called for an immediate end to Israel's "war crimes" in Lebanon while hailing Hizbullah's resistance to the three-week-old offensive. "We denounce the aggressions ... which are war crimes against the Lebanese people," spokesman Mohammad Sammak said after a meeting at the patriarchate of the Maronite Church, the country's largest Christian community.

The assembled clerics called on "the international community to halt the aggression ... and lift the unjust [Israeli] blockade," Sammak said.

The summit also "hailed the resistance, mainly led by Hizbullah, which represents one of the sections of society."

Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who hosted the event, said the summit came in response to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's repeated calls for such a conclave ahead of his trip to Rome on July 26.

"Considering the tragic circumstances, we had to convene to strongly condemn what happened and is happening here, to encourage our children and brethren not to lose hope despite the difficulties, and to urge them to pray to the Lord who brings comfort and good news," the prelate said.

Sfeir added that Israel's continued onslaught aimed to "trigger hostilities between Lebanese communities and spread a spirit of hatred," but insisted that the Lebanese had shown "unity and self-possession."

"Lebanon was and still is a living example of coexistence and perhaps this is the characteristic that is vexing those who want to destroy it," the prelate said.

Sfeir denounced Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of two of its soldiers and held the Jewish state responsible for the hundreds of civilian deaths and the widespread destruction in Lebanon.

Expressing support for Siniora's seven-point proposal to end the war, Sfeir said it was important to preserve national unity and help the thousands of innocent victims in Lebanon.

The prelate, on behalf of all the religious leaders gathered in Bkirki, also called for an immediate cease-fire, a radical solution to the crisis, and supported government efforts to exercise control over all its territory.

Organized by the National Christian-Islamic Dialogue Committee, the summit was attended by Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, Higher Shiite Council vice president Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, and representatives from other confessions, including the Druze Spiritual Courts president, Judge Nohad Hreiz.

However, a statement released by the gathering of Druze spiritual leaders denied having sent an official to represent the confession as they had not been notified of the summit.

"He who claims to represent us only represents himself or the political leadership that harbors hatred against the gathering of Druze leaders," the statement said. - With AFP