Amid an unprecedented, massive uprising of the Lebanese population demanding a sweeping overhaul of the country’s political system, leaders of Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical churches in Lebanon assured the people: “We hear your cry.”
In a statement following their emergency meeting last week led by Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, the Christian leaders said of the protesting Lebanese: “We express solidarity with their peaceful uprising. It is high time the state meets the just demands,” the Christian leaders said.
“We ask the head of state to immediately begin consultations with political leaders to take the necessary measures to meet the needs of the population.”
Protests were triggered by proposed new taxes on top of a dire economic crisis and deteriorating living conditions, against a backdrop of political corruption. More than one-third of Lebanese citizens are below the poverty line, and the country’s unemployment rate stands at nearly 40%.
“What Lebanon has been witnessing since October 17 is a historic and exceptional popular uprising that calls for taking historic positions and exceptional measures. The painkillers do not suffice anymore. These people would not have risen if their pain had not reached their limit,” said the Church leaders, including patriarchs, bishops and heads of religious orders who met in the presence of the Vatican ambassador to Lebanon.
Void of any political party symbols, streets and public squares are awash in a sea of Lebanese flags as hundreds of thousands of Christians, Muslims and Druze have peacefully gathered throughout the country.
“The people have sent a message that transcends sectarian divisions,” the statement said, adding that Lebanese “have shown that they were more united than their leaders and gave evidence of the will of national life in a time of disintegration”.
The Christian religious leaders charged that “successive governments for 30 years ignored our appeals and neglected their axiomatic duties”.
“We assure you that your uprising will remain in your hearts until you achieve reform,” the Christian leaders told the Lebanese people, urging them to keep their gatherings peaceful and to avoid being misled or manipulated.