RAHI IN HIS CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: LEBANESE FEAR AN AUTHORITARIAN SLIDE TOWARDS NEW PATTERNS OF PRESS, MEDIA FREEDOM

Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi, expressed fear in his Christmas message on Saturday of creating new patterns of freedom for the press and media in the country.

“In Lebanon, diversity is inherent to freedom, and this is what distinguishes Lebanon from all the countries of the Middle East…The Lebanese fear an authoritarian slide towards the creation of patterns to restrict freedom of the media, the press and expression for political or malicious reasons,” Rahi said during a Mass service in Bkirki.

“Everyone should abide by the laws of the media, and safeguard its required ethics,” al-Rahi stressed, refusing any politicization of the judiciary.

“Every political system or performance that threatens the dignity and life of humans touches the Church at its very heart and faith…Hence, it cannot remain silent towards tyranny, but has to arm itself with courage, giving voice to those who do not have any…defending the wretched in this world and those who are threatened, vulnerable and deprived of their human rights,” stressed the Patriarch.

Commenting on the living standards of the Lebanese, al-Rahi deemed it “unacceptable that one-third of Lebanese citizens remain below the poverty level, as the World Bank studies have shown.”

The Patriarch accused the international community of “neglecting its promises towards Lebanon, especially that Lebanon hosts and shoulders the burden of both the Syrian and Palestinian refugees.” He also charged the international community of imposing and instigating war against Iraq and Syria.

Tackling the issue of private schools in Lebanon, the Patriarch regretted that “the wage act has created some rift within the educational family, namely between teachers, parents of students and private schools,” noting that “private schools, especially Catholic institutions, are concerned with preserving and guaranteeing the rights of teachers, as well as relieving parents of their shouldered burdens.”

“It is the duty of the State to recognize that it is responsible for educating the Lebanese by virtue of the Constitution. Therefore, the State has to pay the differences in salaries of teachers resulting from the implementation of the new wage grid, while preventing any raise in school fees,” al-Rahi added.

The Patriarch moved on to criticize United States President Trump’s decision “to Judaize the Holy City of Jerusalem, defying the whole world and neglecting all the appeals of peoples and nations.”

“We categorically reject this decision, because it is unjust and contrary to Christianity and Islam, and to the Palestinian people in particular,” said al-Rahi, adding that the US President “has decided to destroy all pillars of the peace negotiations, thus, igniting the fire of a new intifada, and even a war, God forbid.”

“It is regrettable that the United States has abandoned its original mission to protect human and peoples’ rights and to promote democracy, in wake of this unjust decision,” stated the Patriarch.

Al-Rahi concluded his Christmas sermon by hoping that the upcoming new year would dispel all conflicts and wars, as well as political, economic, living and social crises, putting an end to poverty and deprivation around the world.

Source: National News Agency