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Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rai celebrates Mass to mark the first anniversary of the explosion Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros Al-Rai celebrates Mass to mark the first anniversary of the explosion 

Lebanese Patriarch Raï calls for truth and justice on anniversary of Beirut blast

As Lebanon marked the first anniversary of the catastrophic Beirut port blast on 4 August, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Raï called on the Lebanese people not to give in to despair or violence, while reiterating the call for truth and justice over the disaster.

By Lisa Zengarini

The blast, set off by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded. It killed over 200 people, injured nearly 7,000 others, and left more than 300,000 displaced.

Thousands of people, many holding pictures of their loved ones and waving Lebanese flags, gathered near the port on Wednesday, while in other parts of the city young protesters threw stones against security forces near the Parliament.

“Crime against humanity"

During the memorial service, Cardinal Raï accused officials of evading the investigation, saying that the “voice of God” will be calling “on the conscience of every person responsible” for this “crime against humanity”.

A year on, the enquiry on the blast is at a standstill, and the culprits at the highest ranks are yet to be found.

The Pope's support

The head of the Maronite Church called on all the families affected by the disaster to confide in God’s love, who, he said “suffers with you, lives in you and relieves your sorrows.”

He recalled Pope Francis’ supportive words during his General Audience on Wednesday. The Pope reiterated his “great desire” to visit the country and said that he will never stop praying for the Lebanese people, “so that Lebanon will once more be a message of peace and fraternity for the entire Middle East.”

No violence

Cardinal Raï also called on protesters “to avoid violence, abusive words, attacks on institutions and property and on the army and security forces” to express their understandable anger and discontent.

He pointed out that the reason of the commemorative gathering was to remember and pray for the victims of the blast and to express solidarity with all the communities involved in Beirut.

No justice without truth 

He then reiterated the call for truth and justice, ending the “disgraceful” immunities which have allowed senior officials and officers to escape the investigation.

“There is no justice without truth. There is no truth without courage. There is no courage without believing in a cause” and “what cause deserves more courage, truth and justice than the disaster of the explosion in the Port of Lebanon?” he said.

A new call for “Lebanon's neutrality”

The Patriarch then asked all Lebanese people to show their solidarity with Beirut by helping rebuild the city and “witnessing unity”, whether Muslim or Christian.

While thanking the international community for its support, he pointed out that “the sad situation in which Lebanon is presently entangled is also caused by external conflicts.” He therefore relaunched his proposal for “Lebanon's neutrality” in the Middle East.

Need to change a corrupt ruling class

He also called on all Lebanese to “take courageous, clear and transparent decisions” when choosing their representatives in the next parliamentary elections, so as to change its corrupt ruling class “that has have driven Lebanon to the bottom of the abyss.”

Unity respecting diversity in Lebanon 

Cardinal Raï finally repeated the urgent need for “unity” to save the country from disaster.

According to the Maronite Patriarch, this unity must recognize the religious and cultural plurality of Lebanese society and Lebanon’s neutrality. “We don't want more fights; no more wars. Let us set the course for freedom and peace,” Cardinal Rai concluded.

Worst political and economic crisis since the civil war 

Lebanon is going through one in its worst political and economic crises since the official ending of the civil war (1975-1990). The country faces rising poverty, which has dramatically increased with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and which has hit 60% of its population, including 1.5 million refugees from war-torn Syria.

Due to partisan interests, political leaders are yet to come to a final agreement on a new government, 12 months after the catastrophic explosion in Beirut that led to the resignation of Hassane Diab.

Patriarch Raï has repeatedly appealed for an “international conference” under the aegis of the United Nations to end the paralysis, protect the country’s sovereignty and guarantee some form of stability.

05 August 2021, 15:59