The Maronite Church in Lebanon has clashed with the Shiite establishment (especially Hezbollah), as the Maronite Patriarch, Moran Mor Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, has condemned factionalism and political factions running paramilitaries, a direct reference to Hezbollah which is a heavily armed Shiite paramilitary. Al-Rahi stressed that no serious political progress can be made in Lebanon unless certain factions (within and without Lebanon) get rid of its weapons:
“We are not ready to discuss modifying the system before all components adhere to legitimacy and give up their private projects. There shall not be any amendment in the state system with the existence of several statelets in the country. … What’s the use of changing the system at a time when many forces are racing to acquire more weapons, be it in the hands of Lebanese parties or foreigners.”
He made a direct criticism of Hezbollah’s desire to ensure that a Shiite control the ministry of finance, which is something that is causing friction within Lebanon: “How can a sect claim a ministry for itself, as if it has the right to do so, and hinder the country’s progress, causing an economic and livelihood crisis, just to achieve personal gains?” He also remarked against sectarianism, specifically against any sort of measure that would allow one sect to dominate the others (which is what Hezbollah wants for the Shiite sect):
“We refuse privatisation and monopoly, from a constitutional point of view and not a sectarian one. Our position is not meant to undermine any particular sect, but we rather reject any heresy that clashes with the principle of equality between ministries and sects and impacts principles of national partnership.”
Although the Patriarch never mentions Hezbollah or Amal, it is obvious that he was addressing these parties, since the Shiite Council, which is heavily influenced by the two parties, made a statement condemning the al-Rahi. In the words of Michael Young of the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut:
The patriarch’s statements clearly shocked the Shiite parties, and hours later the Higher Shia Council, over which Hezbollah and Amal have influence, released a statement condemning them.
The statement of al-Rahi was made amidst a major crisis in Lebanon where they are struggling to form a new government. The French have been pushing a plan for Lebanon. It exhorts for a “mission focused” government of specialists, who would not be politicians, but would be supported by the political parities of the country while addressing Lebanon’s serious problems. But the French proposition has been met with resistance from Lebanon’s two major Shiite parties — Hezbollah and Amal — who have been demanding that the country’s finance minister always a Shiite, an idea which Patriarch al-Rahi is clearly against. Hezbollah’s demand a finance minister must always be a Shiite goes contrary to the principle of not allowing a particular sect to dominate a governmental office, and thus it goes against Lebanon’s constitutional custom. It is the job of the finance minister to sign onto legislation that involves state spending. If Hezbollah gets their way, and dominates the finance ministry, they could have undo influence on what gets and doesn’t get countersigned.
If the acrimony and chaos of sectarianism becomes so strong that a government cannot be civilly established, then Lebanon will go, in the words of Lebanese president Michel Aoun, “Of course – to hell.” Look to the horrors of Lebanon’s war, which took place just a short number of decades ago, and you will see what sectarianism will lead to if it is not contained. Lebanon is the second most racist country on earth; such an atmosphere of racism cannot go on without a spark igniting the fumes of hatred. The Maronites themselves have racism in their ranks, going contrary to the anger of Christ when He purged the Temple of the merchants who were exploiting people in the section of the edifice which was for foreigners (the Courtyard of the Gentiles). The evils of racism cannot continue on without an eruption of violence and bloodshed, and if such a vice is left unchecked, racism and sectarianism will overtake the political atmosphere, and ultimately the soul of the nation, with man against man, neighbor against neighbor. (Isaiah 3:5)