By Elias Sakr
BEIRUT: Christian parties and figures are continuing to criticize â€œattacksâ€ against the Maronite patriarch, saying they were aimed to weaken Christian-Muslim ties but would fail to shake the patriarchâ€™s position.
After visiting Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir on Thursday, Koura MP Farid Habib stressed that parties criticizing the patriarch aimed to push the country to the brink of civil strife, adding that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun had laid the groundwork for the criticism, given his attacks on the patriarch.
The Lebanese Forces MP expressed surprise that â€œsome religious authorities that consider themselves â€œmoderate circles in Hizbullahâ€ had subjected Sfeir to criticism, adding that sectarian strife takes place due to pre-set plans as to initiate it.
Habib was responding to senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, who on Tuesday said that â€œLebanonâ€™s glory has been given to struggling and resilient people.â€ The remark was taken as a retort to the popular saying that Lebanonâ€™s glory belonged to the Maronite patriarch.
Habib said Sfeirâ€™s position on the national level would not be weakened given the patriarchateâ€™s leading role in establishing Lebanonâ€™s independence and defending its sovereignty.
At Tuesdayâ€™s iftar, Fadlallah also criticized Sfeirâ€™s call to form a majority cabinet if efforts to form a national unity government face obstacles.
â€œWhy do you restrict the issue to the parliamentary majority?â€ Fadlallah had asked, responding to Sfeirâ€™s demands for ditching the idea of a coalition government. â€œWe call for a popular majority and popular referendum, so that people can have their say.â€
However, Nabatieh MP Mohammad Raad said Thursday that Fadlallah was expressing his personal opinion, adding that Fadlallah was a religious and national spiritual authority.
Sfeir stressed that the previous cabinetâ€™s experience had not been encouraging since it proved a government embracing the majority and the opposition was subject to obstruction.
The patriarch added that â€œif the majority governed and the minority opposed, matters would progress better.â€
â€œA government based on a horse in the front and another in the rear would mean the wagon remains broken and at a standstill,â€ Sfeir said.
Visitors to the patriarch at his summer residence in Diman said that Sfeir had been surprised by the campaign against him, since he was devoted to preserving the countryâ€™s national unity and consensus.
Head of the Islamic-Christian dialogue committee, Hareth Shehab, stressed that Sfeir had always advocated consensus among the Lebanese as the best form of democracy.
Shehab said due to the failure to reach an agreement between the parliamentary majority and the opposition on the cabinet, Sfeir had concluded it was time for a majority to rule and a minority to be in opposition.
Separately, Syriac Union head Ibrahim Mrad said that organized attacks by opposition groups on Sfeir were aimed to weaken the Middle Eastâ€™s leading Christian figure, since the patriarch stood against Syrian tutelage over Lebanon.
Mrad added that Sfeir had always urged the Lebanese to refrain from â€œwageringâ€ on regional intervention, which led in the past to long years of devastating civil war, adding that â€œfigures known for their moderation and modesty,â€ a reference to Fadlallah, were now attacking the patriarch.