Christian Only By Name, No 1st Communion For Bassam Abou Zeid’s Children For Having Special Needs

  
Over the years, first communions have become less about the religious value they uphold but rather about which child has the best combo of it all: souvenirs, party, ceremony. 

It was the case when I did it almost 18 years ago. My parents went all out. Things have only gotten worse since.

Despite the materialistic aspect of the ceremony, it remains a rite of passage for a lot of Lebanese Christians, mostly Maronites. For many children, it’s the highlight of their 8th year. For most parents, it’s one of the last religious festivities their children will go through .

Yesterday, news surfaced that well-known Lebanese reporter Bassam Abou Zeid wouldn’t be going through that experience with his two little boys: Matheo and Iowan. 

In a Facebook post, Abou Zeid detailed the ordeal his children were going through in the St. Doumit Parish in Zouk Mkayel; the ceremony organizers were having issues handling them so they required the parents to be present during rehearsals, which the parents obliged to, only to be faced with the ultimatum that their children were not a “proper fit” with that particular parish to undergo the ceremony.

When Abou Zeid spoke to the Parish priest to sort things out, parents threatened to take their children elsewhere if Abou Zeid’s children were to remain part of that particular first communion, for fear of them “ruining” it.

To summarize: this is one of the most disgusting things to occur in Lebanese society in years, there’s nothing Christian about this. Those parents – screw them – should be ashamed. Those ceremony organizers should be ashamed as well.

Let’s start with the ceremony organizers.

It is your duty as volunteers to hold such ceremonies to take in children from all kinds of kinds whose parents want them to take the next step in their Christian life. Bassam Abou Zeid’s children having special needs and you not being able to adapt to them does not reflect negatively on the children, it shows your ineptitude at doing your job. I don’t blame you. I blame the Parish that accepted you to run their ceremony to begin with.

To those parents who threatened to transfer their children if Bassam’s boys were allowed to participate, you are nauseating. Not only is this utterly disgusting on your part, it also shows that you are unfit parents, to condemn little boys in that manner, little boys whose only fault was to have special needs, which isn’t really a fault at all. I hope that your children never face the kind of discrimination you’re throwing at Matheo and Iowan. I hope you never have to be the parent in Bassam’s shoes, and have someone like you tell them: oh, we don’t want your children to ruin it for ours. The only thing Christian about you is the sectarian tag on your ID. I advise you to take your children out of the ceremony anyway, there’s nothing Christian about what you are doing there.

To the priest Joseph Eid, it is your duty to make sure that Matheo and Iowan attend that ceremony along with the other children. It is despicable and horrifying if you were to succumb to the parents’ threats about not wanting their children to have their ceremony ruined. It is your job as a priest to make sure that the God you serve, the one who wanted all God’s children to be part of His church, not to have some children be excluded because their parents are dimwits or because your Parish is inept: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Mathew 19:14. 

To Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch, there are things more important in Christianity than the number of parliamentary seats Maronites get, what the president can do or who he is. The life matters of your people are important too. This is not an event worth letting by.

I don’t know what kind of special needs Bassam Abou Zeid’s children have, but it doesn’t matter. They’re just kids, and they’re falling victim not only to a religious institution, but to people who have no ounce of humanity in them. Tfeh. 

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Following Up on Beirut’s Soon-To-Be Destroyed Roman Hippodrome and The Best Way To Save It

Lebanon isn’t a place where much changes in a year. Seriously, if you look at where we were last year around this time and where we are today, you’ll see a lot of similarities. The only exception, perhaps, to our Lebanese reality is real estate, especially when it comes to all the contracting taking place in Downtown Beirut.

More than year ago, I wrote about the Roman Hippodrome that was soon to be destroyed in Beirut (link), in Wadi Bou Jmil next to the Jewish Synagogue. A lot has happened in a year. So courtesy of a piece (link) by Habib Battah, an LAU professor, published by the BBC, an update on Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome is in order:

  • The developer who wants to use the land is Marwan Kheireddine. Sounds familiar? He is a minister in Lebanon’s current government. Way to go for transparency.
  • The project that will see the destruction of the hippodrome is a gated community where only “elite” Lebanese will enter. In other words: you and I are off limits. Unless you can afford paying millions for a Downtown Beirut apartment.
  • According to Kheireddine, the site is not worth preserving. How does he know this? He hired an archeologist who said so. Yes, because such matters are most transparently handled by the people you buy into your service.
  • Kheireddine is offering 4000 squared meters of the land to turn into a museum of sorts that people could access. Because a Roman Hippodrome was meant to be contained within the parking lot of a building, right?
  • Plots around the site in question are said to contain other parts of the stadium and need to be properly excavated as well.
  • There is an immense shortage of archeologists in the country. The job of those archeologists is to make sure such transgressions never happen. But the government doesn’t seem to care about such an issue.
  • Beirut is not the only place where Lebanese archeological heritage is being destroyed left and right carelessly. In fact, what’s happening outside of Beirut in lesser known areas might be worse.
  • Concerned activists are trying their best to halt the development. But there will come a time when they won’t be able to do much anymore.

I remember back in 2005-2006 when a local cafe in Batroun was being built. The initial digging site revealed a Phoenician burial site, sarcophagi and all. People flocked to see what the site was all about. The following day, nothing survived to tell the tale. Today, instead of that entire burial site lies a cafe known for its shisha and its July 2012 drug scandal.

The Best Way To Save The Hippodrome:

Earlier in 2013, hell broke loose twice over ancient ruins in Beirut. The first time was because some henchmen at District S assaulted the same person who wrote the aforementioned BBC article over him taking pictures of the ruins they were busy dismantling to open up Beirut into the new Dubai-esque age (link). The second time was due to Lebanon’s possibly oldest Church getting discovered at another site where a Jean Nouvel hotel was to be built (link).

The discrepancy between the fate of sites one and two is striking. The former is still operation. The latter has been halted. Churches can do miracles? Believe, people.

Arguments about how priceless a monument is, how irreplaceable it is, how silly it is to replace it with a building, how rare it is to find such a thing in Lebanon, how economically profitable it would be to keep it and turn it into an attraction are all useless simply because most people don’t connect to them on a primal level, enough to get them rallied up.

The only way, apparently, to get to a result, force government to get involved and save such sites in Lebanon is to infuse a dose of religion in the stones. The more religious those stones, the more people get rallied up, the less our government can stand quiet as bulldozers raze through the field. Unfortunately for the hippodrome, there doesn’t seem to be an ancient church in its ruins as of now. Let’s hope that changes soon.

The following pictures are all courtesy of the BBC:

Once Upon a Time in Maaloula

It was December 2010, slightly after Christmas, that I went to Maaloula as part of a two day stay in pre-war Syria.

The village was nestled up the mountains some 30 minutes away from Damascus. I had no idea what to expect there, other than some difference from the  souks and mosques that their country’s capital had to offer. I should have known that Maaloula would be drastically different – the driver had been talking a language I wasn’t understanding all the way. It was Aramaic.

Once upon a time, the Maaloula I visited was a calm village, part of a calmer and oppressed country. The people there seemed poor. They also seemed especially devout, asking us to take off our shoes as we visited Christian shrines for saints that Christians in Lebanon worshipped. The town’s houses were tightly packed together, haphazardly built, in a way that climbed up the mountain that overlooked the village. A statue of the Virgin Mary could be seen atop those mountains. I’m sure they figured she’d be protecting their homes.

I walked around the hills next to the village, patches of snow from a storm a few days prior still visible. The townspeople looked at us warily: just another batch of tourists who are coming and going, expecting some funky eccentricities. A few children were busy playing football on the tarmac across the street. They asked us to play but we didn’t have the luxury of living where they did. So we kept looking around.

The monastery we visited, Deir Mar Takla, where the relics of a renowned Saint reportedly lay, was not very different from several ones I had seen in Lebanon. But I guess it’s always more interesting just because it represents a minority, something different in the vast sea of sameness you had come to associate with the Syria I was visiting back then. I never thought that desolate town, huddled in those cold Syrian mountains, would become the focal point of Lebanese politics almost three years later.

I never gave Maaloula a second thought until today when I was told that the Syrian civil war had reached it and I was told that I should care about the lives of its people, just because they are Christians, more than the lives of all the Syrian civilians who have died since whatever’s taking place in Syria started back in 2011. There are varying levels to the value of a human life.

Maaloula became the centerpiece of a long-used argument revolving around the core foundation of Christian victimhood, because the presence of Christians in this region cannot be guaranteed but by dictators and oppressors. Let’s always choose the lesser evil.

I was also invited to #ActForMaaloula today, an admirable effort and all. But I have to wonder: aren’t Muslim villages worthy of me acting for them? Who am I supposed to act for in Maaloula exactly fully knowing that 90% of its people have apparently left their town? Am I supposed to act for the Churches that have not been touched according to all news services? Am I supposed to act just for the sake of acting so I can tell the entire world that I care about the likes of those who happened to be born into my religion just because they worship Jesus and don’t fast Ramadan?

Christians in this region are and apparently will always be dhimmis, precisely because of this rhetoric, whether they like it or not. They’re dhimmis because they’re always forced to ask for protection. They’re dhimmis because they’re always treated differently than the countries of which they are part. They’re dhimmis because they relish in the rhetoric that they are different, that their lives are more precious, that one needs to act for their sake but not the sake of others just because they have carried a Cross.

Being against the regime next door doesn’t mean we sympathize with the Islamists. It doesn’t mean some Lebanese politicians, who remember the never-ending Christian victimhood argument listed above whenever they’re bored, get to patronize us about not doing enough for our “Christian brethren.” I refuse to be blinded to the fact that this talk about extremists and Islamists and Nusra and Al Qaeda did not exist in 2011. I refuse to be forced to forget that the talk about a ruthless regime, which can send the cold, penis-less corpse of a thirteen year old to his mother’s doorstep, has existed since the 1980s. I refuse to be forced to fall to that ridiculous notion that Christians are special and must be protected because Israel considers them competition.

I used to think the fear for Christians in the region is overrated. I don’t think that way anymore. But I also think that the entire way the issue is being dealt with will only lead to further decimation of those Christians and further increase of the fear they are forced to live in. You want to protect the Christians of Syria because you love them so? You fight for a political solution that involves stopping the regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of its people and with it those Islamists we all fear whose existence stems from that precise regime.

One more thing before I bring you full circle.

The Syrian regime protects Christians, sure. The rebels are creatures who want to behead Christians and only do that, sure. The following is not in Maaloula.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Lebanon, courtesy of the Syrian army.

Whose protection am I supposed to ask for now?

Ministry of Culture To Buy Land & Save Lebanon’s Oldest Church in Downtown Beirut?

Source: The Beirut Report

Source: The Beirut Report

The site in Downtown Beirut, which is called “The Landmark” and at which a future hotel and mall were to be built, turned out to be an archeological jewel for Lebanon, unveiling three very important entities:

  1. A Roman gate,
  2. The old Roman road,
  3. Lebanon’s possibly oldest church (source).

I wrote on the issue yesterday. The matter has since made the rounds online. And it seems we’ve made a ripple. Lebanon’s ministry of culture is now considering to purchase the land where “The Landmark” is to be built because of its historical importance according to the following source (link – Arabic).

While the news is definitely welcome, I have to wonder – is it really Lebanese-like to have a ministry with a proven track record – the Roman hippodrome, Phoenician port and Amin Maalouf’s house are all destroyed – somehow respond this fast to demands and act on them? Isn’t it all too fast and too efficient to actually be plausible taking into consideration Lebanese standards?

Perhaps this whole “land purchase” deal is a decoy in order to calm down everyone whilst the real plans go underway. It’s not a conspiracy theory as much as it is the reality of a place like Lebanon where such things happen almost all the time. The question to be asked though: what truly got the ministry of culture to act this time while they didn’t regarding other sites despite all of them getting the same attention and vocal opposition to the demolitions?

It’s quite simple, in my opinion. “The Landmark” land has had a Church discovered in it. Prior to the discovery of the Church, and even though the Roman gate and road were both potentially discovered, the ministry of culture had no problem leaving the project underway and everything demolished in the process (source). But when a church comes into play, can a “Christian” minister truly leave the place be especially with so many “rights” at stake lately? It’s not about “culture” at all.

Ancient churches obviously trump everything else in archeological importance. And quite honestly, it was probably really smart to add a “Church” twist to the affair in order to get people – including the minister – to act. Can you imagine the even bigger outrage if the Church wasn’t saved?

Moreover, isn’t it despicable for us to now start hoping religion factors into the undiscovered aspects of our history in order to have a decent chance at having them saved, documented and potentially turned into a viable economical outlet that doesn’t require their demolition?

Based on a comment on my post regarding the matter (link), a law in Lebanon actually exists in order to protect ancient ruins from the claws of real estate and developmental projects with no other aim but blind money. The law in question was put into action prior to the civil war and hasn’t probably been put on hold akin to our new driving law.

Shouldn’t a country as archeologically rich as Lebanon, and a city with layers upon layers of history such as Beirut, have devised a method by now in order to accommodate the need for contemporary development with the need to also preserve history? How did cities like Rome and Athens manage to move into the 21st century? I guess it all comes down to the basic flaw in everything Lebanese: we never, ever, have a plan and a vision for a future.

How will the moguls behind “The Landmark” take the news that their entire investment will now go to waste? Is this even charted territory for us whereby the billionaire developers don’t get their way – in theory at least?

I hope for its sake that the next site to be unearthed in Beirut has some Umayyad mosque in it.

Lebanon’s Oldest Church Discovered & Will Be Destroyed Soon?

Update: the site MAY be saved.

Downtown Beirut: the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to archeology. After a blogger (link) and Daily Star journalists were assaulted for taking pictures at the District S site, it turned out a nearby site, where the Roman gate and road were discovered, was more important than originally perceived.

Our ministry of culture Gaby Layoun has no problem in allowing the demolitions at the site in question to continue. But new evidence is now surfacing according to this source that the site in question may contain Lebanon’s first and oldest Church. And yes, that possible Church is part of the things that are going to be destroyed as well.

Source: The Beirut Report

Source: The Beirut Report

What will replace the Roman gate and road as well as the potential Church? A five star hotel and mall. Because that’s precisely what Downtown Beirut is so desperately lacking. After all, why would any tourist in their right mind want to see anything in Beirut that doesn’t revolve around the Zaitunay Bays and the Solidere edition of Downtown Beirut?

Gaby Layoun is well on his way to be Lebanon’s prime minister of culture to allow the most transgressions against Lebanon’s culture. From the Roman hippodrome, the Phoenician port, Amin Maalouf’s house and the constant destruction of Achrafieh to the current site at hand. Of course, all of the aforementioned entities are not things that can be milked electorally for them to be anything substantial for Layoun and his friends. Roman hippodrome and Christian rights sure doesn’t sound catchy enough.

We, as Lebanese, have apparently no right to at least have the parts of our history that are discovered be fully studied and documented because it will ruin the plans of multi-billionaires who are paying our government in droves to turn a blind eye to every single transgression taking place.

It’s not only about stone, mosaics and ancient significance. It’s about this monumental carelessness and barbarism with which authorities handle every single situation in this country, including ruins and culture and houses and highways. And quite honestly, I’ve come to expect nothing less of people who probably find the pillars of Baalbek are enough for this tiny country.

Could Patriarch Raï Become The Next Pope?

The conclave of Cardinals in charge of electing the new pope to replace Benedict XVI is currently underway at the Sistine chapel in the Vatican. You’re out of luck if you are a Roman tourist at this time of year – you can blame Benedict’s old age for that.

As it is with papal elections, there is no clear frontrunner as of this point. The myth goes that the cardinals leave their choice to the holy spirit through copious amounts of prayers and holiness. That is if you believe the holy spirit is a combination of politics, geographic, demographics and whatnot.

Eventually, any Pope nowadays is chosen based on one premise only: strengthening the position of the Catholic Church around the world. The late pope John Paul II led one of the biggest developments the Catholic Church had seen when it comes to the Youth, especially in popularity. Benedict’s undeclared job was to contain this surge that John Paul caused in a more Christian, usable, framework.

Today, the Catholic church is stuck at the edge of a steep cliff with the following predicaments:

  1. Decreasing worshippers across the world,
  2. Rise in Christian persecution in certain parts of the world,
  3. Sex-related scandals that plague Catholic priests more often than none,
  4. Corruption scandals that always seem to find a foothold,
  5. The issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and other thorny issues.

Seeing as the Catholic church is firm in its position regarding abortion, same-sex marriages (despite some recent breakthroughs in that regard), stem cell research and the like, I believe point #5 is not even an option in the voters’ mindset. Corruption and sex-related scandals are issues that Cardinals feel should be best kept in-house, not influencing the decision of choosing a Pope who will lead a Church not only based on those two criteria. The stances of the Catholic church regarding the many sex abuse cases that were revealed is a testament to that – if anything, it reminds me of typical elderly Lebanese women whose job in life is to cover up any wrongdoing in their family and showcase it to the world in positive light. Cardinals are similar to those elderly women in that regard.

The most important framework for Cardinals voting today is the following: help Christians around the world stay Christians and lessen the numbers of Christians who are deciding not to be so anymore. There’s little that a Pope can do when it comes to decreasing worshippers – after all, how do you convince people who lack faith that they should have it? It’s impossible. But what the papal conclave of Cardinals can affect is the persecution of Christian minorities across the world, notably in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon back in September – his last major visit to any country before his resignation – was not out of the blue. Him demanding Patriarch Raï to go to Syria and hold mass there, which sparked an insane reaction, was also not out of the blue. Small steps they may be, sure, but for the faithful who still cling to their belief despite the hardships, a patriarch or a Pope acknowledging their strife is some very important business.

The question, therefore, asks itself: Could Patriarch Raï be the dark horse to be elected as the upcoming Pope?

Many Lebanese have already set Facebook pages to that effect, out of enthusiasm mostly, as if a liking a Facebook page to demand our patriarch be instated as Pope is actually beneficial or worth it. But that’s how things are with us – we always take things to Facebook.

However, I have thought about it lately and come to conclude that Mr. Raï could have a decent, albeit slight chance, at becoming the world’s next Pope for the following reasons:

  1. If the main focus is to target the persecution of Christians in the world, what better option than the head of the Christian majority in the location where Christians are targeted the most? The Middle East.
  2. Former pope Benedict’s XVI’s visit to Lebanon was, in part, to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (text) in which the Vatican goes on and on about the crucial importance of the Church in the Middle East.
  3. A Pope from the Middle East would set the wheels for true Muslim-Christian dialogue, which is what this deeply religious and troubled region needs and the Vatican knows this.
  4. Patriarch Raï is age appropriate to be pope. He is only 73. He also speaks several languages fluently, as is required of Lebanese bishops.
  5. Patriarch Raï does not come from a country where priest sex scandals are aplenty and being relatively unknown to the vote has a rather “cleaner” slate than his counterparts. He was also elected as an assistant to the interim Pope over the past week.

The reasons may not be supremely compelling to have someone become Pope, sure. But they’re still viable enough to put Mr. Raï on the papal map. I’m not even sure if Mr. Raï can be a good pope but he might become one.  And frankly, him getting elected sort of scares me.

Insulting The Maronite Patriarch

I don’t believe Bechara al Raï’s visit to Syria was the devil incarnated as many seem to believe. He simply went there to hold Mass, believing his visit would actually get the Maronites of Syria to relax about their future. But it’s not all peachy. His visit is most probably not on his own accord. Odds are the Vatican had requested he visit Syria but I think Al Raï was more than itching to go down in history as the first Maronite Patriarch to visit Syria post Lebanon’s independence. The visit, in my opinion, is absolutely miscalculated and, if anything, showcases a seriously short foresight on his behalf as well – one that a person in his tenure should not have. Al Raï was simply too limited to see the repercussions of such a visit. The hidden meaning is far more serious than it being a simple religious visit.

The Syrian regime has, over more than 20 years, systematically persecuted the Maronites of Lebanon, be it politically or demographically or even socially. The Maronite Church stood against the regime countless times, effectively being the first catalyst that led to the regime’s army departing from Lebanon on April 26th, 2005. Bechara Al Raï’s stances have been far removed from the Maronite Church’s historical views towards the Assad regime. But how can a patriarch truly expect the first Maronite Patriarchal visit to Syria since 1943 be considered as a shallow affair of prayer seeing as it is visiting the country of a regime who did what it did to Lebanon’s Maronites? His visit was not to the regime, granted. But in a way, it is by extension. The Maronites of Syria sure deserve their patriarch to visit them – but not under current circumstances. The argument that Maronites all around the world deserve a patriarchal visit is something that the patriarch shouldn’t even touch to justify him going to Damascus. There are also Maronites in Israel. But that part is taboo.

The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al Raï’s visit has been, to say the least, extremely polarizing. Many were supportive of it as a step towards reaching out to the scared Maronites of Syria, few as they may be. Others were staunchly against it, characterizing the visit and its Mass as diabolical. Caricature drawings in Saudi newspapers were circulated:

Bechara el Rai Caricature Saudi newspaper Al Watan

The idea being discussed was the following: the Maronites will never do what the Sunnis did with the prophet caricatures or what the Shiites did when Hassan Nasrallah was portrayed on Basmat Watan. The argument goes that Maronites are “more civilized.”

Someone forgot to tune in during last week’s Maronite road barricades in support of the Lebanese army. So it’s not really beneath us as Maronites to block roads. After all, it is in these days.

The Caricature in Al Watan newspaper is definitely not acceptable but it’s not because it’s demeaning and offensive to Christianity. Al Watan newspaper did not, similarly to Danish newspapers, publish offensive pictures of holy Christian figures in order for the comparison between potential Maronite reactions, or lack thereof, and Muslim reactions to be valid.

Pretending as if this is the same caliber as the Muslim reactions to the prophet drawings, which in themselves were not acceptable, is quite frankly very silly. Patriarch Bechara el Raï is not Jesus. He is not a Holy person. He is a neo-politician-priest who did what many believe is a mistake. And it stops at that.

But it is not acceptable in any way whatsoever for a disgusting newspaper, Al Watan, which is published in a country like Saudi Arabia where freedom of speech does not exist, where they cannot – nor do they dare – criticize their own religious folk and their ruling class after which their country was named, where Christians are not allowed to practice their religion freely (even the Cross in the caricature was hidden), where women are kept on a leash, where liberties are suppressed and where human rights are unheard of to remotely have the right to criticize anyone in that way, let alone someone who does not affect their country in any way whatsoever.

I have to wonder, in what way does Al Raï’s visit to Syria bother Al Watan? It only shows exactly how silly that newspaper is – that they’d go after a religious figure who is probably unknown to the majority of Saudis just because he is one of the few religious figures in the region which they can attack. And it’s not because they hate Christians, as many seem to believe, which I would suppose might hold some truth. It’s because it gives them the illusion that they are free, that they can do this and face no repercussions. They thought wrong.

If this caricature had come out from a newspaper in a country known for its freedom of speech, such as Denmark – a place which dared to publish Mohammad caricatures – the discussion would have been totally different. If the pope receives such caricatures, then why not Raï? But Al Watan, with the demented theocratical country it operates in, publishing them is not and should not be tolerated. They only practice their freedom of speech when their bosses approve. When it doesn’t get on the nerves of its readers… when they address a population which lives far away in an issue that does not affect them in any way whatsoever.

They don’t dare to see that their own society has a multitude of issues that could be made into a caricature, starting with that sheikh who beat and abused his 6 year old daughter to death to the fact that women are now starting to learn how to drive after their gender has been voting for more than several decades in countries around the world. And that makes them cowards. It makes them not respectable as a publication or a newspaper or any form of media that wants to be read.

The best place for Al Watan is the trash bin.

Now let’s address our own Lebanese.

The Lebanese reactions towards the Saudi insult have not been much better although a Lebanese addressing the issue is definitely more acceptable than someone who comes from a country that doesn’t even know freedom of religion. The caricature, the visit and everything around it was milked politically like everything in the country nowadays. Anything that revolves in any way around defending Christians in this country serves as ammo for politicians from both sides to fire at each other, trying to create a firework display of Christian power to please the masses ahead of the parliamentary vote.

As the constant disk of those “bad Sunnis of Saudi Arabia attacking us poor Maronite minority in Lebanon” kept playing, some people were forgetting who was doing even worse than those Sunnis to the former patriarch Sfeir with insults that went from the belt down (“heida l batriark thayyaj” anyone?), to attacking his tenure, his position, his seat and his person. But that doesn’t count – because it’s only bad when a non-Maronite does it apparently.

You want to criticize the patriarch himself, as a person, fine by me. Feel free to criticize his political opinion, if any. Feel free to address his stance regarding social issues as much as you want. I think it’s healthy when religious figures are challenged in this country and no religious figure has probably been challenged as much as the Maronite patriarch, especially by his own people.

But there’s a minimum required respect for the seat the man occupies. The Patriarch is but a temporary filler for the head of the Maronite Church. Calling the patriarchy a patriarchy of disgrace is not acceptable. Calling the Mass that took place in Syria as diabolical is unacceptable. I am not saying religious figures – as men – are the ones that should never be criticized despite everything. I’m saying that the institutions that these figures represent have a minimum of respect that should be given to them, regardless of where you stand when it comes to the matters of faith or lack thereof.

When I read some Lebanese people calling the Maronite patriarchy a new prostitute for Al Assad, that to me – even as a non religious Maronite – is offensive because it not only attacks the patriarchy in its current form, it also attacks my forefathers of whom I cannot but be proud as they struggled through centuries of persecution against tyrants who were worse than Al Assad and I don’t mean this in the religious but in the historical sense.

Insulting the Maronite Patriarchy and patriarch is not exclusive to one sect or one political side. Everyone does it and pretends as if it’s not okay to do it. What many seem not to realize is that there’s a thin line between being critical and downright insulting, especially when it comes to such institutions, that we cross way too readily, most often on a whim. Criticizing the Maronite Church’s practices is definitely not and should never be a taboo. And I’ll be the first one to criticize some of the policies they might come up with, something which I have done many times before. However, a few questions need to be asked: did the patriarch’s visit to Syria really cause any harm among the Maronites here or there? No. Did it bruise our pride? Perhaps it did. But is that reason enough to insult the patriarchy, the patriarch and enable publications from countries that do not even know the basic concept of freedom to do the same? I hardly think so.