Rai: Christians face challenges of extremism

2-rai_634558787619711207_main2.jpgBEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said Wednesday that Christians in Iraq and Christians in Lebanon are facing the same challenges of violence and extremism in the region.

Rai, who returned to Beirut after a visit to Baghdad, said that the blood of Christians who were killed in repeated acts of violence in Iraq over the past eight years would become a foundation for a new Iraq.

Tuesday, Rai held a mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad to mark the first year anniversary of a devastating bomb planted by an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, killing some 58 people.

The patriarch, who was invited by the Syriac Catholic Church of Baghdad, returned to Beirut in the company of the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Joseph III Younan.

Both patriarchs were welcomed by a large number of Lebanese officials and diplomats at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport.

Speaking to reporters, Rai said that his visit to Iraq focused on discussing with top Iraqi officials the worries facing the Christians in the region with the influx of fundamentalism and violence into Iraq.

“Iraqi officials and the Iraqi people are exhausted because since 2003 the country has been torn apart, its institutions and infrastructure destroyed,” said Rai, adding that officials there are now trying to rebuild the country amid daunting security challenges.

Rai also commented Wednesday on legislative activity at Nijmeh Square and thorny issues that have beset the government, urging politicians to restore trust among themselves.

Rai praised Parliament’s endorsement of legislation that would allow the return of Lebanese nationals living in Israel. Several hundred Lebanese sought refuge in Israel following the Israeli army’s withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000.

Rai said he was “very happy to hear the news in Baghdad” before arriving in the afternoon, noting that on his recent trip to South Lebanon, the issue was raised repeatedly by locals.

Rai called proposals to introduce a proportional voting system in the 2013 parliamentary polls a positive development that will spur further debate and discussion.

“In Bkirki and in our discussions with the Maronite MPs, we will study the case,” Rai said.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2011/Nov-03/152990-rai-christians-face-challengesof-extremism.ashx#ixzz1cdbC9SmN
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)