Major Religious Figures Encourage Participation in Upcoming Elections As the May 15th Parliamentary Elections approach, several major religious leaders in Lebanon have encouraged the Lebanese people to participate in the voting process, albeit with different messages. At his most recent Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi called on the Lebanese people, “to tell the world what Lebanon they want … [promoting] a free, democratic and neutral Lebanon; a Lebanon with an historical identity, founded on justice and equality with one army and constitutional institutions.” [Vatican News] Sunni Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian in his Eid al-Fitr sermon warned that, “abstaining is the magic formula for corrupt people to come to power.” [Arab News] Although Grand Jaafarite Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Qabalan used disparaging language with respect to, “purging state administrations and institutions of U.S. influence”, he too encouraged participation in the process, saying, “the electoral juncture is a major act of worship and a crucial national, moral and religious duty. Hesitation is forbidden or rather haram, leaving the electoral battle is haram and a blank ballot is haram, because God entrusts us with the country and its authorities.” [Naharnet] Despite the clear disparities in messaging, there is strong encouragement among these religious figures for the Lebanese people to participate in the elections, which are scheduled to take place next Sunday (May 15th).
Lebanon Drops in Freedom of Press Rankings The press freedom advocacy organization, Reporters Without Borders, issued its annual world press freedom ranking today. In its 20th iteration, Lebanon came in at 130th out of 180 countries ranked, which is a downgrade from its position of 107th just last year in 2021. In particular RSF took into account the political affiliations of Lebanese media outlets’ ownership in addition to Lebanon’s defamation laws and patterns of harassment, economic pressure, and discrimination against journalists. [L’Orient Today]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
A Love Story – Lebanon’s Revival
AbiNader writes, “The facilities for the elderly occupy a large portion of the activities at Saint Joseph Monastery, with its state-of-the-art nursing home for up to 100 residents, fully serviced by the nuns at a cost significantly less than other private facilities. The economic situation, the financial instability in the country, the devaluation of the Lebanese currency, the scarcity of job opportunities, and the massive proportion of people living below the poverty line all generate a daily line of folks seeking help and sustenance at the Monastery’s door. Saint Joseph Monastery, however, is also not immune to the economic crisis and yet, still strives to offer in-kind assistance with basic food, clothing, dairy products for children; tuition assistance to deserved and needy students; and financial assistance for medications, especially for chronic illnesses. Sister Raghida and her team continue to extend a helping hand to their less fortunate. One of her objectives is to continue to create job opportunities in the Monastery’s dairy farm and agricultural fields so people can become self-sufficient and partners in the charitable work of the Monastery, reflecting the Gospel admonition that “whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40), as well as the quote that stuck with me from Sister Raghida, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Diplomatic Courier Lebanese Gamble With Their Lives In Search For Dignity Adnan Nasser
Nasser writes, “Despite the dangers, Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar heard from survivors that they would not hesitate to try to escape again if presented with the opportunity. ‘It is better to escape and drown than to live in a country that does not respect its citizens, where we starve every day,’ one person had expressed. Politicians’ talk about ‘honoring’ the dead and those who suffer doesn’t seem to ring true. As far back as 2011 Mikati, who was then also Prime Minister, promised to ‘relieve’ the people of their economic woes. He said, ‘We realize the size of the burden on the citizens’ shoulders. … This is why the government will set as a priority finding solutions to these problems.’ Despite more than 11 years passing since these promises the situation has gotten worse rather than better, with the gap between the rich and poor widening and over 80% of the population living in multi-dimensional poverty. This engenders a sense of desperation which led to widespread protests in October 2019. The protest movement failed to pressure the government into needed reforms, and one side effect of this growing desperation is that many are making irrational decisions, gambling with their lives in a search for dignity.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.