بيانات صحفية / مواقف
Rai urges Lebanese expats to register to vote - The Daily Star 11/10/2011
BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai urged Lebanese expatriates Monday to register to vote at embassies abroad in order to preserve the demographic balance among Lebanon’s confessional communities.
“I kiss your hands asking you to register because Lebanon’s regime is based on demographics,” Rai told members of Chicago’s Maronite community, in a stop on his pastoral visit to the United States.
High emigration rates among Christians have raised concerns of a shift in the country’s demographic balance in favor of Muslims.
Lebanon’s Christian community has fallen over the past few decades to under 40 percent, threatening the continued viability of a system of power-sharing based on parity between Muslims and Christians.
“If you don’t register, we will be out. Do you want us out?” Rai asked. “There is no census to know what makes 50 percent and if you don’t register, we will lose.”
Rai also said that Lebanon should adopt a strategy of neutrality to preserve its stability amid intensifying conflict between regional axes.
“Lebanon’s salvation comes only with neutrality,” Rai said.
“Our role is not to take sides with anyone or ally with the Sunni axis against the Shiite axis or vice versa,” Rai said, warning against deepening divisions between Lebanon’s rival March 14 and 8 coalition.
However, Rai added that Christians should not be regarded by the U.S. as a minority in the Middle East but should be seen as pioneers in political, cultural and democratic movements.
“We don’t consider ourselves a minority,” he said.
“Christians of the East made politics, culture, democracy and demanded freedom for women and we ask the U.S. and all states not to value us in terms of economy or oil but in terms of human civilization since Christians uphold this civilization,” he added.
Rai said the U.S. has failed to understand the reasons behind Christian concerns over their status.
“They might not understand why we talk about religion and we tell them: We are present in an Islamic world. Even Israel says it is a Jewish state and only Lebanon continues to say that it is a civil state that respects all religions,” Rai said.