A land dispute that erupted Tuesday in the Lebanese Afqa municipality in the Byblos District of the Mount Lebanon Governorate spurred fears of renewed sectarian tensions breaking out between Maronite Christians and Shiite Muslims in the area.
The threat of violence erupting prompted one of the area’s prominent Shiite clerics to urge the head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, to issue an official stance to quell sectarian tensions.
It is worth noting that the Byblos District includes a mix of Maronite and Shiite locals.
Towns in this district often witness spats between landowners of the two sects. The situation is made more complex by Shiite farmers who claim rights to lands that overlap with real estate owned by the Maronite Church.
Lebanese army and security forces frequently intervene to defuse recurring problems that are often taken to court for a final resolution.
After Tuesday’s dispute, Shiite Mufti Abbas Zoughaib released a strongly worded statement that defended the sects position on backing coexistence between Christians and Muslims, but also rejected any infringement against the properties of Shiites in Byblos.
“We were, are, and will always defend Muslim-Christian coexistence in Lebanon. We refuse for church property to be attacked. But, at the same time, we will not accept attacks on the property of our people in Byblos and we will not accept that the army and security forces deal with them in a negative way,” said Zoughaib.
Lebanese law maker Simon Abi Ramia confirmed, via Twitter, that he had contacted the Armed Forces Commander General Joseph Aoun, the head of Byblos District intelligence, and the commander of the Qurtaba platoon after the incident.
“Do not tolerate aggressors over property, and conflict, if any exists, it is resolved by the judiciary,” he said he told them, reaffirming that the “the use of weapons is forbidden and that the rule of law should be upheld.”
Ramia also reaffirmed trust in the army and said that removing tension is a priority.