Maronite Patriarch Asks the World to Encourage Syrian Refugees to Return Home
Maronite Patriarch Bshara Al-Rai will return to Lebanon on Thursday following an official visit to France, where he met with President Emmanuel Macron and called for encouraging the Syrian refugees to return to their homeland.
The issue of refugees was one of the main topics addressed by Rai with French officials, based on the Lebanese people’s fear of an international “desire” to keep the displaced persons in their hosting countries.
The Maronite patriarch told Asharq Al-Awsat that when international conferences on Syrian displaced and refugees “insist on integrating them into the communities in which they are located, and facilitating their entry into the labor market, this indicates a tendency to keep them where they are,” describing such “insistence” as a threat to the Lebanese demographic balance.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rai said that Lebanon was under the burden of the huge number of refugees, warning that their continued presence in Lebanon would change the country’s demographic structure.
In figures, the patriarch said that one third of the Lebanese people lived below the poverty line. In addition, 60 percent of Syrian displaced, according to specialized international agencies, suffered from the same situation. Therefore, the patriarch called for solutions to the problem of the refugees “to save Lebanon”, so that the Lebanese “do not find themselves strangers in their homeland” and to preserve the country as a “message” to the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Rai underlined his rejection of two statements: the first is calling for a “forced” return of displaced and refugees, and the second is the commitment to their voluntary return.
In this regard, he called on French officials to “encourage the Syrians” to return to areas that have become safe in Syria, and not to link their departure to a political solution and reconstruction.