President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, appealed to the Lebanese, on the eve of Christmas, on OTV, in a religious interview inspired by the spiritual occasion, in which he spoke with his interlocutors, colleague Abdel Helou, former Archbishop of Ferzol, Zahle and the Bekaa, for the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam Yohanna Darwish, about religious aspects and his impressions.
The President also spoke about his vision of the Christian faith and how to apply it in daily life.
President Aoun stressed the importance of the great meanings that Christmas carries and the values of love that Jesus called for, and the importance of the Virgin Mary and the Bible in consolidating these values in the daily life of the believer, and facing the difficulties and problems he faces on a daily basis.
In addition, President Aoun calrified that he gained faith gradually, and that “The entrapment of knowledge” played a role in this, stating that his faith was reflected in the consolidation of his attachment to the land and the homeland.
“A person is linked to his society and to the land. A person without a homeland is a refugee, and this strengthens the connection between man and land” the President said.
President Aoun also considered that Lebanon has citizens of all religions and brings together multiple civilizations, if coexistence is present peacefully and based on good deeds and love between individuals and groups, then it constitutes two models for this.
“This is why I proposed the establishment of the “Academy of Man for Convergence and Dialogue” that studies civilizations, religions and the accompanying traditions. I believe that the culture that emerges from that promotes peace among human beings. So as long as we all acknowledge God as the Creator, why do we kill and not love one another, because the earth accommodates all human beings” President Aoun continued.
Moreover, President Aoun pointed out that What the Lebanese suffer from today and live with is the result of the actions of those who previously exercised responsibility, and these people had to form a good example for the citizen because they were the front of the Lebanese society and they are entrusted with the lives of the citizens who suffer today, hence the right to self-defense. That is, the necessities of life”.
At first, Al-Helou recited an introduction inspired by the occasion, then he began with Bishop Darwish the dialogue with the President. There was a question about how President Aoun spent Christmas Eve this year, and he explained, “This holiday for us is the holiday of the family that gathers all its members, old and young. It is a feast commemorating the birth of the Savior, so the children rejoice while the adults contemplate the message of salvation to the Lord Christ from birth to the crucifixion, and this is the path that every Christian must pass through”.
Asked about how humans understand the partnership between God and man, in which the Virgin Mary was a cornerstone, President Aoun indicated that “This matter is one of the secrets, either one believes in it or does not, but it cannot be explained because the explanation will detract from the value of this secret. Salvation took place with the participation of the Virgin Mary, who had a fundamental role”.
Regarding the method of acquiring faith, President Aoun said that he acquired it gradually, as it was first confined to the Christmas period, and “Then I watched my mother as she frequently went to church and she explained to me some religious matters that I was not aware of, and which accompanied me while I was in the process of growth, so I started thinking about it more and more and I became attached to this great religious secret, and it accompanied me during my educational attainment until the period of maturity in which I formed an independent thinking, and I reviewed the sequence of human development in his search for the Creator and existence, from the worship of the moon and natural manifestations down to religions.
God is the secret of existence, no one will realize it, because if we know him, we will become like him”.
President Aoun stated that “the curiosity for knowledge” had a role in his faith, as the person was searching for the secret of his existence and how the order of the universe and creation works, and about the God who is outside the Metaphysique. I was among the children who served the liturgy, whether in the town or in school, and that I joined the singing choir despite my lack of distinctive vocal abilities”.
In response to a question about the relationship of young people with God in light of the tumultuous life we live in, President Aoun saw that the more turbulent life develops, the greater the distance from God. “Just as religion is one of the foundations of the state, and because Sharia is the belief in God who imposes justice on humans, the vertical relationship with God and the other horizontal relationship with humans have become the laws”.
Concerning the reflection of his faith on the consolidation of his attachment to the land and the homeland, President Aoun replied: “A person is linked to his society and to the land. A homeland is a person and a land. A land without a people is nothing, and a person without a homeland is a refugee. This strengthens the connection between man and land”.
The Gospel and Acts of Mercy:
Asked if he reads the Bible from time to time, President Aoun said that “The Bible is not only limited to teaching faith in God, there is the education of man and the way he behaves with his neighbor. It is a religious education that can reconcile man with the other and live together, because without this spiritual relationship that includes members of society, coexistence and love cannot occur. There is a difference between the commandments of the Old and New Testaments, and a contradiction at times, especially since the commandments of the Old Testament contain only a little positives, for example, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no god but me.” As for most of them, they bear the prohibition, such as “Do not swear in the name of God in vain, do not kill, do not steal”… While the commandments of Christ in the New Testament carry the positive formula: “You were told not to swear in the name of God in vain, but I say to you, do not swear in the name of God absolutely, and let your words be yes yes or no no, and everything more than that is from Satan. Therefore, positive action is much better than negative action because it contains evidence of the path that a person should take. Let’s go back to the fifth commandment, which says, “You shall not kill.” Well, if a person does not kill, what should he do? Is it enough not to kill?”.
“Christ says, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” This is the direction on which a person should walk, love. And the seventh commandment says you shall not steal. Is it enough not to steal? Jesus did not say do not steal, but said to the young man who asked him what he should do, “Go, sell what you have, give to the poor, and follow me.” So the true commandment is giving, which is the basis for the relationship with others. As for the eighth commandment, it does not bear false witness, while Christ said, “I was not born and came to this world except to bear witness to the truth.” So, witnessing the truth is obligatory, and not just not bearing false witness. What does it mean for a person not to testify to the truth? What would he have done? The truth does not appear by refraining from witnessing the truth. Christianity constitutes the positive, and its commandments constitute a message and a treaty of peace for the world and among mankind. In fact, I call it a treaty of non-aggression between the Jews against each other”.
And whether we can apply these teachings and give mercy to people, President Aoun said: “Certainly, we can apply these teachings, whether the person is ordinary or in a position of power. A person can give others opportunities because mercy is there for him, whatever his position. What is forgiveness and reduced punishment? They constitute mercy and give the other a chance to repent the mistake he made”.
President Aoun also stated that he reads books on various topics, including theological books and the lives of saints, which he described as spiritual nourishment.
The plurality of civilizations and the stability of man:
Regarding his letter to former French President Francois Mitterrand on October 29, 1989, in which he affirmed that Lebanon is more than a country, rather it is a thought, and his opinion of Lebanon’s message today and the possibility of activating it, President Aoun replied that “Lebanon is a country with citizens of all religions and brings together multiple civilizations. If coexistence in it is peaceful and based on good deeds and love between individuals and groups, then it constitutes a model. That is why I proposed at the United Nations the establishment of the “Human Academy for Convergence and Dialogue”, which would study civilizations, religions, and accompanying traditions. I believe that the culture that emerges from that promotes peace among human beings. So as long as we all acknowledge God as the Creator, why do we kill and not love one another, although earth accommodates all human beings”.
“I was an officer in the army and fought battles, but the fighting resulted in deaths and shedding of blood and left sorrow and pain and shedding tears, so why the war? Those who hate wars the most are those who wage them, and those who bear their effects, i.e. workers in the Red Cross and ambulances, who know the meaning of pain, war, death and life” the President added.
Regarding the proposals of the Apostolic Exhortation in 2012, and its focus on ecumenical dialogue as a march towards Christian unity out of common love for Christ and the extent of his satisfaction with dialogue between churches, the President replied: “Christian unity exists. I remember that on one occasion I was visiting the town of Baneh at the invitation of St. Michael’s Day, and I found 3 churches of this saint close to each other. The first was built for the Catholics, the second for the Orthodox, and the third for the Maronites, so I entered the first church, where I found the Gospel, the Crucified and the image of Saint Michael. The same is true in the second and third churches, so how can unity be translated without these manifestations? Christians have spread all over the world, but they emanate from different civilizations and have different customs and different liturgies, but the basis is the Gospel and belief in Christ, while the way of worship differs, meaning that the Church is united. However, as human beings, we “confuse” the unity of the Church, meaning that our mistakes make each group justify why it differs from others in the faith”.
Concerning what he will say today to Lebanon’s youth in light of the brain drain crisis, President Aoun affirmed that there is a section of young people who believe in their future mission, and another section is looking for their personal future.
“When I said that they are the future of Lebanon, I meant that as a society on the basis that they will carry change and will build the best in their society, so the future and the developed will be better than the late” President Aoun said recalling what was stated in the play “Sawan Mountains” by Rahabnah, when Mrs. Fairouz said: “Many or little amounts of people, we will continue with those who remain”.
A person must remain firm and complete what he started, and not run away from the difficulties he faces on his way” President Aoun said.
The suffering of the Lebanese and dialogue:
Regarding the numerous challenges faced by families in Lebanon, especially the economic ones and what is related to the future of the youth and the lack of security, President Aoun affirmed that “The faithful Lebanese family lives and faces these challenges and adversities with courage, piety, faith, and love. However, there are those who, under these ordeals, reach the point of unbelief, due to the absence of justice and the torment they suffer as a result. Each person expresses his feelings and convictions in his own way. Humans are distinguished by their different natures, but what the Lebanese suffer from and live with today is the result of the actions of those who previously exercised responsibility. Poverty and destitution do not come from nothing, and there are those who caused these problems and were at the center of responsibility, and we cannot deny this issue. These people had to set a good example for the citizen because they were the face of the Lebanese society and they were entrusted with the lives of the citizens who are suffering today. Hence the entitlement to self-defense, that is, the necessities of life”.
Regarding the values that combine Christianity and Islam, the President indicated that “Eastern Christianity does not live except through Christian-Islamic dialogue, and we always have a desire for dialogue with the other”.
President Aoun considered that a civil state, in order to be achieved in Lebanon, needs social and political maturity. We cannot, through the different laws that exist in Lebanon, be one people. Laws, in all their diversity, constitute a kind of failure in the development of society, because they carry with it a derogation of rights, especially those related to the rights of women and children, and personal status. Differences in laws cannot lead to the union of two peoples and thus the formation of a civil state”.
Regarding the possibility of the state sponsoring this dialogue in order to be effective and reach the level of dialogue thought from the leaders to the people, President Aoun indicated that “The ordinary person, and sometimes the thinker, does not think about the things that bring him together with the other, but rather thinks about the differences, and when he thinks about these differences, he considers himself another human being, and in his words there is a kind of conformity more than an expression of the truth of what he believes in”.
Concerning the “Human Academy for Convergence and Dialogue” project, and whether Lebanon could be a permanent center for dialogue between different religions and races, President Aoun said: “We are building an institution, and this institution must continue, and we stress the importance of mixing and a unified view of civilization. Difference in traditions and customs is not but a result of a certain culture that developed in isolation from the other group, and when we see that this institution was established for the sake of achieving the interest of man and for his good, the rapprochement between different peoples becomes stronger and the language of peace becomes stronger than the language of war”.
The President pointed out that the Damourmunicipality provided a plot of 100,000 square meters to build this center, but the “Corona” pandemic, in addition to various developments, delayed the construction work. “This center will bring together professors and students from different countries, races and religions, which will allow a person to learn to accept the other without any effort, and to be loving and free”.
Meditation and prayer:
On the subject of prayer and meditation, President Aoun indicated that he practices meditation on a daily basis on various topics, starting with his responsibilities and actions, and ending with philosophical topics and prayer.
The President said “I do not only pray for Lebanon, but I work for it. Its needs are many and its misfortunes are many and accumulated. Lebanon needs work, and thank God, I do not complain of fatigue from working for Lebanon”.
President Aoun said that the Virgin Mary is the common aspect between Christians and Muslims who love her, pray for her, believe in the formation of her person and consider her a saint.
Regarding his message to the Lebanese on Christmas, President Aoun said: “The most important message I send to the Lebanese is: “Love each other.” It is certain that change is coming and will happen. This change will be intellectual and practical, because we have reached what we are as a result of sin, theft, corruption and failure in the system. This will force a certain change, but this change needs time, and salvation comes gradually. Lebanon needs 6 or 7 years to get out of the crisis it is suffering from”.
At the conclusion of the interview, Archbishop Darwishthanked President Aoun for the meeting, and Mr. Abdo El-Helou, President Aoun and Archbishop Darwishrecited prayers for Lebanon and the Lebanese to grant them peace and guidance to the light of divine knowledge, so that they may enjoy the good tidings of the glorious Christmas.
President Aoun said: “I raise my prayers with all the Lebanese to enjoy a new year in which social justice prevails and peace is achieved. I wish success and a happy life for all Lebanese”.
Then Archbishop Darwish and Mr. El-Helou presented an icon representing the Holy Trinity dating back more than 100 years, to President Aoun.
Source: National News Agency