The growing number of crimes committed by Syrian refugees in Lebanon is fuelling social tensions and intolerance among Lebanese for the refugees. The Maronite Catholic bishops of Lebanon met in Bkerke on Wednesday and recognized the widespread hostility toward innocent Syrians who fled the deadly fighting in their native country to find shelter in Lebanon where "their lives and their dignity were safe guarded".
Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai presided over the conference, appealing to authorities in Lebanon and the international community "not to spare any effort in speeding up the return of Syrian refugees to their homes" so that they can rebuild Syria. In a statement, the bishops declared that in Syria "there are many safe areas that can accommodate displaced persons in a dignified manner, waiting for complete peace in their country".
On September 30, during a pastoral visit to the Bekka Valley, Patriarch Rai remarked that the presence of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is creating an unsustainable situation that can be resolved by hastening their repatriation. Similar sentiments were expressed by the leader of the Hezbollah Shiite party, Hassan Nasrallah, who declared that day: "It is time to return to Syria". Nasrallah, who is backed by Iran, added that Syrians must "return home and participate in the reconstruction of the country".
According to the UN Human Rights Commission, there were more than 1 million refugees registered in Lebanon in 2016. However, that number may not be accurate because it represents only those persons who were registered. Those waiting to be registered had yet to be counted.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.