Maronite leaders met at the patriarchal compound in Bkerki on January 16th to discuss concerns over Hizbullah's efforts to disrupt Lebanon's power-sharing agreement and thereby threaten its identity and stability.
Hizbullah has been obstructing the formation of a new government, and is reportedly seeking to convene a constituent meeting to endorse a tripartite power-sharing formula.
Under this formula, which Maronites say would undermine Christian-Muslim co-existence, Christians, Sunnis and Shias would share power in a 1:1:1 ratio.
Under the current system, put in place by the 1989 Taif Accord, Christians and Muslims share power in a 1:1 ratio.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi said the political crisis is related to "the non-implementation of the Taif Accord and the constitution by their letter and spirit".
This has led to constitutional institutions "being controlled by sects and not the state, thus weakening them and leaving them like a ship at sea being tossed around by the wind", he said.
Al-Rahi said fears "arose over what is being put forth secretly and publicly regarding a change in the governance system and Lebanon’s identity".
In a closing statement, meeting participants affirmed that the Lebanese society and state "arose out of the profound civilisational and humanitarian convergence between its Christian and Muslim citizens".
Participants upheld the Taif Accord and the principles of national unity, co-existence and pluralistic governance based on a partnership that is fair, just and balanced.
The meeting's timing was significant, said Lebanese MP Maged Eddy Abillama of the Strong Republic parliamentary bloc, "as it came amid a governmental vacuum and whispers behind the scenes of plots to amend the constitution".
"There was consensus by the political blocs on the necessity of working to consecrate Lebanon’s identity and rejecting anything that would contribute to the establishment of [new] norms," he told Al-Mashareq.
"The meeting came to affirm the founding national principles of the Lebanese entity, namely the state, sovereignty and constitution," Abillama said.
Threat to Lebanon's identity
Lebanese MP Elias Hankash told Al-Mashareq the meeting "would not have been held had Patriarch al-Rahi not sensed a real threat to Lebanon's identity".
"We, as a party, had warned of a problem that goes beyond the government formation crisis," he said.
"We are facing a crisis of a totally dysfunctional governance system and [political] order, so much so that we have reached the stage where the Lebanese ship is at risk of sinking," he said.
Hankash said meeting participants "discussed in depth the threat to the Lebanese identity, in light of the existence of parties such as Hizbullah, whose actions are driven by foreign agendas", in reference to the Iranian regime.
Iran's interference in Lebanese internal affairs through its proxy Hizbullah is part of a long-standing project to expand Tehran's influence in the region, political analysts told Al-Mashareq.
This leaves Lebanon vulnerable to regional turmoil, Hankash said, adding that Lebanon’s identity also is endangered by Hizbullah’s actions, whose weapons put it above the state, the law and the constitution.
Hizbullah's refusal to disarm
Bkerki meeting participants put forth their concerns, and affirmed their adherence to the constitution, co-existence and the Taif Accord, said Denise Atallah, editor-in-chief of lebanesequora.com.
"The participants put emphasis on the need for governmental powers to be balanced and integrated, and on respect for the formation of the government, which is entrusted exclusively to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister-designate", she told Al-Mashareq.
In his Christmas message, al-Rahi "explicitly addressed the illegal weapons [issue]", she said, referring to Hizbullah's refusal to disarm, in violation of the terms of the Taif Accord.
Lebanon’s experience with illegal weapons is a "bitter experience", she said. "A state, its structure and the structure of its institutions cannot stand as long as there exists a parallel state, regardless of its slogans."
Hizbullah is fighting foreign wars at a time of growing political friction, she said, stressing that the militia's policy and agenda are undermining co-existence.
Hizbullah "is placing obstacles in the way of the formation of a government", thus driving Lebanon into a stalemate and putting the economy at risk, she said.