Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi declared on Friday that the army alone protects Lebanon against challenges, hailing its recent sacrifices that “helped defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other extremist groups.”
He added: “We hope politicians would follow the example of the army and make sacrifices to elect a new president.”
He made his remarks during a mass held in honor of the army martyrs on the occasion of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
“We salute Army chief General Jean Qahwaji, the soldiers, and security forces, and hope for the safe return of the captives” held by Islamist gunmen, al-Rahi said.
He also thanked international initiatives aimed at supporting the army.
He made his comment in reference to Saudi Arabia's grant of one billion dollars to the army aimed at helping it counter terrorism.
“Just as the army rose to the challenge of combating extremists, we hope that officials would have risen to the occasion, exercised their constitutional duties, and elected a president,” al-Rahi stressed during the mass held at his summer residence in al-Diman.
“We hope that politicians will in turn back the army and defend it and the security forces in recognition of their sacrifices,” continued the patriarch.
Commenting on the persecution of Christians in the region by the Islamic State jihadist group, al-Rahi prayed that world powers and organizations would take the necessary action to achieve peace in the region.
Clashes broke out on August 2 between the army and Islamist gunmen in the northeastern border town of Arsal in wake of the arrest of a prominent al-Nusra Front member Imad Jomaa.
Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the unrest that ended with a ceasefire on August 7.
The gunmen withdrew from the town, abducting a number of soldiers and security forces members.
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