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Jumblatt vows 'church bells will ring again' in villages of Chouf

By Maroun Khoury and Maher Zeineddine

Daily Star correspondent

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Retrieved from Daily Star on October 17, 2006

 BKIRKI, Lebanon: MP Walid Jumblatt said on Monday that "with the blessing of the patriarch and the help

 of the Lebanese government, the church bells of [the Chouf villages of] Kfar Matta, Obeih and Brih will

 ring again." Jumblatt's comments came after a visit to Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir to discuss

 the file of the displaced in the Chouf, among other issues.

 MPs Wael Abu-Faour and Faisal Sayegh also attended the meeting with the patriarch.

 The Progressive Socialist Party leader said he had not visited Bkirki in a long time due to the tense

 security situation in the country.

 "However, our visit to Bkirki today comes to reinforce the historical association between the Chouf and

 Bkirki, and to fortify the historical reconciliation in the Chouf," he added.

 Sfeir's visit to the Chouf in the summer of 2001, which resulted in what is now called the "reconciliation

 of the mountain," marked the first time a Christian authority had visited the region since the end of the

 1975-1990 Civil War.

 Repeated and lengthy battles were fought between the Christians and Druze in the Chouf during the

 conflict, resulting in the displacement of thousands of Christians from their villages.

 Recent efforts to finally allow the displaced to return to their villages have hit several snags.

 In Brih, a dispute over a house built by a Druze family on Christian property has delayed the displaced

 from returning home. Negotiations for the demolition of the house are under way.

 Minister for the Displaced Neameh Tohme said recently that a solution to the dispute was in the works,

 following Jumblatt's meeting with the Druze community in Brih.

 Criticizing "childish" comments that church bells would resume ringing after the return of the displaced,

 FPM official Hikmat Dib said: "Such comments overlook the real value of this historical reconciliation."

 Dib said Jumblatt's declaration from Bkirki lacked in "true substance," adding that the Chouf MP had

 a "superior attitude" toward the displaced.

 "It is as if all these people are returning back to some private principality and not to their own

 hometowns and villages," Dib said.