Lebanon Risks Losing Its Young People

Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops Sound a Warning

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BKIRKI, Lebanon, NOV. 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Economic and legal difficulties and social marginalization are forcing young people to leave the country, the recent assembly of Lebanese Catholic patriarchs and bishops warned.

The assembly’s final document said emigration by young people has reached alarming levels in recent years. The phenomenon could «empty the country of its youth,» the bishops lamented.

Lebanese people have always been travelers and emigrants, the Web site AsiaNews.it said in its report on the assembly. What is new now is that young people are leaving the country with no intention of returning.

When identifying the causes and proposing solutions to halt this «hemorrhage of human resources,» the assembly called for an «appropriate and faithful» application of the 1990 Taif agreements, which sanctioned the end of the civil war that bloodied Lebanon since 1975.

The assembly, which was held in Bkirki, headquarters of the Maronite patriarchate, brought together Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir; Armenian Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX; Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham (represented by his vicar, Monsignor Salim Ghazal), and several bishops of the different dioceses.

The topic of the annual assembly, which ended Nov. 16, was emigration and the diaspora.

On another matter, the prelates alluded to «non-parity sovereignty» in reference to the Syrian military presence in the country, which causes imbalances. «One part of the population dominates the other» and «those who are close to the poles of influence monopolize all state functions,» the assembly’s final statement said.

In 2002 the Church already spoke out against the exclusion of Christians from political life. In his Lenten message Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir said he was convinced this sentiment was the cause of the emigration of many Christians from Lebanon, who felt they had «no role in the country.»

In addition, the prelates noted that the norms for military recruitment are also responsible for preventing the return of young people to Lebanon. In this connection, Patriarch Sfeir requested that young people who were either born or resided abroad for more than five years be excluded from military service.

The present law on military service dissuades many Lebanese parents in the diaspora from registering their children in Lebanese consulates abroad, Patriarch Sfeir explained.

In the economic plane, the assembly stated that 70% of Lebanese who emigrate do so for exclusively financial motives — hence the necessity to create new job opportunities in the country. In this connection, the bishops appealed to the government to elaborate «a plan of general and equitable development.»

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