The Arab Organisation for Human Rights – UK (AOHR) has condemned remarks made by the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rahi about Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

In a statement, the organisation said:

At a time when the countries of the Middle East need to work seriously to end civil wars, the highest religious figure in Lebanon delivers irresponsible and ominous remarks that could trigger civil war in Lebanon.

The Patriarch described the Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon as a “massive burden and a demographic, economic, political, cultural and security danger.”

Such remarks from someone who represents a major religious community, the organisation said, could cause a civil war, recalling past bloody clashes in Lebanon which were triggered by similar remarks from ordinary people.

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The AOHR said that the Patriarch’s attempt to defame the refugees and calling for their immediate return to their homes “is a hidden call for the use of military power to expel them from Lebanon, whatever the price.”

Likewise, the organisation pointed out that the Patriarch’s remarks were not isolated. It recalled earlier remarks made by Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Jubran Basil, who said: “‘Every foreigner who lives in our country against our will is an occupier, regardless from where he came.”

The AOHR called on all the Lebanese to repudiate such inflammatory remarks because they speak about mere “illusions and not existing dangers.