A celebration was held on Saturday in the Shouf region to mark Christian-Druze reconciliation in the village of Brih following a break in ties between the two sides following the 1975-90 Civil War.
President Michel Suleiman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat attended the celebration along with a number of lawmakers from various parliamentary blocs.
Suleiman said during his speech: “Brih was the scene of wars that were greater than them.”
Today's celebration demonstrates the importance of the unified state and army, he added.
“A state, whose army alone controls arms in Lebanon, is capable of defending the nation,” stressed Suleiman.
This state alone will be able to lure back the displaced to their homeland, said the president.
“I renew my commitment to the Baabda Declaration that will steer Lebanon clear of regional disputes and help alleviate its tragedies,” he noted.
“I call on all involved to withdraw from regional battlefields and adopt the agreements of the national dialogue,” he demanded, while stressing the need to place Lebanese interests above others.
He also highlighted the importance of Christians in the region, congratulating Brih on achieving reconciliation.
For his part, Jumblat said: “Today's celebration will put an end to the divisions of the past and restore ties between the two sides.”
Addressing Suleiman, he remarked: “You have boldly guided Lebanon through various challenges in order to prevent the country from falling into chaos and vacuum.”
He hailed the president for the adoption of the Baabda Declaration, lamenting however the failure in its complete implementation given regional crises.
Commenting on his centrist role in Lebanese politics, Jumblat said: “This position helped assert the authority of the state.”
Turning to al-Rahi, the MP said that his presence in Brih complements the reconciliation sponsored in the Mountains by then Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir in 2001.
“Your presence asserts the role of Christians in the region given the challenges it is passing through,” he added.
To the residents of Brih, Jumblat stated: “Today marks the beginning of the march towards reconciliation, coexistence, and harmony and the commitment towards the country.”
For his part, al-Rahi praised Suleiman for sponsoring the reconciliation seven days before the end of his term in office, as well as the efforts exerted by Jumblat and Minister of Displaced Alice Chabtini in achieving it.
“We hope that today will mark a new page in the history of Brih,” al-Rahi added, while stressing the need to create job opportunities in the village.
“We call on all Lebanese to overcome their divisions,” he demanded, while urging parliament to elect a president before Suleiman's term ends on May 25.
“We are in need of a president who would be capable of achieving reconciliation throughout Lebanon by defeating the war of petty interests, which is more dangerous than armed war,” he noted.
“We need a president who can continue along the path of reconciliation and dialogue,” al-Rahi declared.
“The basis of any reconciliation lies in being at peace with oneself and God,” he concluded.
The ceremony also witnessed the placing of foundation stones for two churches in the village.
PSP media officer Rami Rayyes told An Nahar daily Saturday that the celebration is continuation of the “historic reconciliation that took place in al-Mokhtara under Sfeir in 2001.”
The celebration is part of efforts to eliminate the scars of the 1975-90 Civil War, he added.
Later on Saturday, Jumblat threw a luncheon banquet in Suleiman's honor, ahead of which the president lauded the PSP chief for his support throughout his six years in the presidency and during his years as commander of the army.
“Cooperation with Jumblat will continue because he will not allow the violation of national principles,” said Suleiman.
He also stressed the importance of cooperation “with Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in order to reach a national defense strategy for Lebanon as stipulated in the Baabda Declaration.”
Meanwhile in the Shouf town of Deir al-Qamar, Suleiman took part in a celebration during which the foundation stone of the village's public hospital was laid.
Suleiman revealed during the afternoon event that Army chief General Jean Qahwaji will sign later in the day an accord in Saudi Arabia to arm the military institution with an amount of USD 3 billion.
Tackling the presidential vote, he considered in a speech he gave in Deir al-Qamar that past experiences should be taken as lesson by MPs in the last days before the deadline for electing a new president ends.
“It is a lesson in order to draw an end to the parliament's extended mandate, and to hold the elections on time according to a modern law that assures representation based on what was agreed on during the May 5 dialogue session,” he explained.
“We need to strengthen stability to help the new president and the successive governments to implement the Baabda Declaration, and arm the military institution to be capable of defending the country alone,” he added.
“I call on you to preserve the head of the state to safeguard Lebanon. I urge you to elect a new president.'
At the end of his speech, President Suleiman granted former minister Naji al-Boustani a National Order Of The Cedar medal with the Grade of Grand Officer.
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