ATCHANE, Lebanon — President of the Universal Syriac Union Party (USUP) in Lebanon Ibrahim Mrad visited His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, at the patriarchal headquarters in Atchane, Lebanon.
During the meeting, the two parties discussed the political and economic situation in Lebanon, especially after the deadly 4 August explosion at Beirut’s port, and the situation of Christians in the wider region.
The pair stressed the need for joint action to provide better service to the those hit hardest by the explosion, which that killed at least 177 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused between € 8–15 billion in property damage, leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
On 19 August, Mor Aphrem II partook in a virtual meeting of the Middle East Churches Council to discuss the situation of the Churches of the Middle East and developments in the region generally. The participants of the meeting called for greater efforts by the churches to help Christians affected by the explosion.
Earlier, on 8 August, Mrad called for Lebanon to be temporarily placed under international protection and guardianship given the enormity of the multitudinous crises which were plaguing the country. Mrad’s statement for international custodianship is at odds with recent statements of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who called for the formation of a new government composed of competent Lebanese figures in order to prevent foreign interference in the country following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government.
Since Aoun’s call, political tensions have boiled over between various factions. Last week, tensions between supporters of the Syriac Maronite Lebanese Forces party and Shi’ite Hezbollah in Beirut’s Al-Naba’a neighborhood have escalated to acts of symbolic violence, namely the burning of opposing political symbols.
Hezbollah is a member of the ruling coalition allied with President Aoun. Lebanese Forces, an opposition party, currently holds 15 of the 64 Christian seats in Lebanon’s parliament and is the second largest Christian party in parliament.