Lebanon’s top Christian clerics blast politicians as hunger, hardship bite

Anti-government protesters scuffle with Lebanese policemen after they removed a part of a concrete wall that was installed by security forces to prevent them from reaching the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 2, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 05 July 2020

Lebanon’s top Christian clerics blast politicians as hunger, hardship bite

  • Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai accused politicians of thinking only of their own vested interests

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Christian authorities slammed politicians on Sunday for failing to remedy an economic meltdown that has left many poor, piling pressure on the country’s leaders as it spirals deeper into crisis.
In a sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, the top Christian cleric, accused politicians of thinking only of their own vested interests and urged the president to take action.
“It appears politicians want to hide their responsibility in emptying the treasury and not enact any reforms,” he said.
Hopes of salvation through an IMF deal have retreated, with the government unwilling or unable to enact reforms, hamstrung by the conflicting agendas of sectarian leaders who don’t want to yield power or privileges.
The crisis, which has decimated the local currency and raised fears of mass hunger, is seen as the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-1990 civil war.
“Political officials...do not have the courage nor the freedom to meet and find ways out of the suffering,” Rai said. He warned this was depriving the country of help it needs from foreign donors.
Economic woes, rooted in state waste and corruption, came to the fore last year after capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against leaders in power since the war.
Lebanon’s sectarian political system parcels out state posts based on religious sect, with the presidency reserved for a Maronite Christian.
The largest Christian bloc, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, is close to the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement. Both backed the current cabinet, which took office in January.
In another sermon in a central Beirut church, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi also lambasted the political elite on Sunday.
“Oh respected leaders, I address whatever conscience remains in you,” he said. “Do you sleep comfortably at night while those under your care starve, and die of thirst and by suicide?“
Earlier this week, dozens of people mourned a man who killed himself in a busy Beirut district, blaming the country’s leaders for the hardship which they said caused his death.


Dubai Police arrest actress for holding birthday parties despite coronavirus measures

Updated 21 September 2020

Dubai Police arrest actress for holding birthday parties despite coronavirus measures

DUBAI: An Arab actress has been arrested in Dubai for hosting two birthday parties without adhering to the emirate’s strict coronavirus measures against gatherings.
Dubai Police said the artist was arrested after sharing a Snapchat video of her birthday party alongside her friends and guests, without social distancing and without wearing face masks. Police identified the actress using only her initials.
“The artist, M.H., organized two parties for her birthday in two different restaurants in the emirate in the presence of several people, in violation of the decision issued by the Attorney General of the United Arab Emirates No. 38 of 2020,” the police statement said. 
The Attorney General said those who violate precautionary measures will be fined 10,000 dirhams ($2,700) for holding gatherings, meetings or private parties or public parties.
Authorities will also punish the two restaurants that violated the measures for allowing to organize the birthday parties, and not adhering to the precautionary measures against the coronavirus.