The Civil Influence Forum continued this morning, the monthly “Morning Dialogues” series, with the fifth meeting being held at the Gefinor Hotel – Rotana Al Hamra, in the presence of a group of academic, administrative, legal, constitutional, cultural, and intellectual personalities, retired military personnel, media professionals, civil society activists, and the president and members of the forum.
The fifth meeting was held under the title “Lebanon between Citizenship and Managing Pluralism: Context and Problems” inspired by the National Accord Document (Taif Agreement) with its reform clauses and the option of returning to the constitution, to build a state of free, just and independent citizenship, a state of coexistence.
Proceedings of the meeting
At the beginning of the meeting, which was transmitted directly on the social media platforms of the forum, the Lebanese national anthem was broadcast, followed by an introductory documentary on the “Civil Impact Forum” / ten years of the cause, Lebanon and the human being, and then a review document for the fourth meeting of the “Morning Dialogues” under the title: ” Lebanon and the Parliamentary Elections Law: Fair Representation and Effective Governance”
Then was the speech of the member of the Board of Directors of the Forum, Engineer Elie Gabriel, who pointed out that the Forum of Civil Impact “decided to struggle for the restoration of the identity of citizenship, which arose since the establishment of the state of Greater Lebanon, and was mentioned in the spirit of its constitution in the year 1926.” He added, “We are convinced of the cumulative, calm and purposeful work, pointing the compass to save Lebanon from this dangerous quagmire and build public policies implemented by good governance, and this lies at the core of the goal and message of the Civic Influence Forum, as we are at a delicate historical moment in which gray solutions are useless.”
The facilitator of the dialogue, researcher Shaden Hani, said that there are “social, religious and political dimensions that contradict the concept of citizenship in Lebanon. When we say ‘citizenship’, we say ‘homeland’, as a person needs a home in order to practice citizenship, so there is a relationship between the two based on a historical, social, political and religious culture.” She pointed out that “Lebanon’s geography was not defined until after the First World War and the establishment of Greater Lebanon in 1920.” She pointed out that, “Since independence and after it the 1943 Charter, opportunities have emerged and attempts have been made to build a real state, but no rules or provisions have been developed or practiced that foster the unity of the nation.” And its people, and this entity is consolidated and its pillars are confirmed, just as the politicians who took over the affairs of governance did not fully give the citizen his rights. Also, “the citizen has not fully fulfilled his responsibilities.” Therefore, “the state’s lack of commitment to carrying out the duties required by its existence allowed the local – feudal and religious leaders to grow and influence, as the citizen felt that the leader, the feudal lord, the politician, and the clergyman was the only guarantee for him in light of the state’s inaction, and this is what perpetuated sectarianism and sectarianism.”
Hani talked about “temporary privileges,” pointing out that “there are 18 sects and sects in Lebanon that form a religious pluralism. The constitution preserved the rights of each of them. The constitution gave a temporary privilege, which became permanent when distributing powers to the sects.” It is the one that entered into a “struggle over political influence, resorting to bullying others from outside Lebanon, to the extent of entering into local wars.” Lebanon has become “an arena for regional conflicts.” This “has increased divisions and unilateralism in light of the religious pluralism that exists in Lebanon.” The invention of the word “coexistence between sects is nothing but a speck of dust in the eyes.”
After Hani criticized the loss of “one vision for Lebanon,” she considered that “pluralism, which is a source of enrichment and wealth in many countries, has become, in its religious formation in Lebanon, a source of ills and contradictions.” Considering that “the situation is complicated,” she said, “to get out of what we are in,” we must start by establishing a “democratic political system,” and “adopting the law as the sole reference in conflicts and disputes, protecting rights equally, and respecting cultural and religious differences and customs between groups.”
Hani concluded that “there is no alternative but the establishment of the state.” However, we must “strengthen it by all cultural, educational, media and social means through solidarity and unity that politicians have prevented from a people who have awareness, wealth and sufficient maturity to rise up and build a homeland. The panacea is to separate religion from the state and preserve the privacy of religions and individuals in worshiping God.”
After that, Dr. Makram Aweys made an intervention. He considered that talking about “Lebanese citizenship and diversity” is sensitive and important, “because it not only determines how we, as Lebanese, will communicate with each other, but also determines how we will work together to build the future Lebanon.” Aweys divided his intervention into three parts: the first was a discussion of “the reality of the situation we are in and how we, as citizens, deal with our state and with each other.” The second part dealt with “what political options are available to us to address the issue of citizenship and diversity from a political point of view”. The third and final part dealt with future aspirations and “suggested ideas on how to enhance citizenship and deepen respect for diversity in Lebanon.”
Aweys considered that despite foreign interference in our internal affairs, “which has sometimes disrupted our political life over the past decades, the Lebanese are still greatly affected by a number of internal factors, including those related to the unresolved files of the 1975-1990 war.” These prominently include “the fate of 17,000 missing and forcibly disappeared persons,” the failure to “achieve effective reconciliation at the people’s level,” the inability to “agree on a common history approach since the end of the war in 1990,” and the failure to “implement our amended constitution after Taif.” In addition to the constant fear among citizens that they will not be protected by the state, especially if they live in areas where they constitute a minority, or where potential clashes may occur between two or more groups. This is what “shaped the demographic movements in the country and also affected the limited return displaced to their areas.
Aweys pointed out that instead of “dispelling feelings of fear, threat, alienation and frustration towards the state,” they have been “bolstered through an electoral system that is still heavily biased in favor of these leaders and parties.” He spoke of “the failure of our education system, since Taif, to promote knowledge, understanding, and respect for other citizens’ backgrounds, identities, religious groups, special needs, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on.”
After Aweys talked about a group of negative phenomena, he referred to some options that could be resorted to and identified them on several levels: the first of which is “the teaching of human rights in all schools in the light of clear and very specific curricula.” The second is “reviewing civic education and shedding light on how the Lebanese system operates.” And the third is “critical knowledge of history through the introduction and adoption of agreed-upon curricula.” And the fourth is “promoting a model that can help build a state that respects international agreements and treaties that include Lebanon.” Fifth, “giving the Constitutional Council the authority to interpret the constitution.” And sixth, “make the independence of the judiciary a top priority, and remove it from the control of the Ministry of Justice while providing the necessary protection for judges.” The seventh is the formation of a national committee to draft a new civil personal status law. And the eighth is “reforming the electoral process to remove it from dividing small districts, which are promoted by sectarian parties and their leaders.” And ninth, “drafting a new law for political parties, whereby parties are prohibited from receiving funding from non-Lebanese.” And tenth of it, “the rapid move towards e-government for most transactions.”
Aweys concluded by calling for “launching a large workshop and completing it in a comprehensive manner that takes into account the diversity of Lebanese society.” They pointed out, “Our diversity should be a source of celebration, not a source of permanent fear that divides citizens.” In the end, “the Lebanese will not be able to build Lebanon on solid ground, and they will remain weak in front of internal and external ambitions and threats if they do not seek to deepen the sense of citizenship.” Although “it may take time, perseverance, and effort, progress is possible, so that we have a diverse Lebanon that embraces citizens who feel their citizenship and that they are involved in its affairs.”
In conclusion, there was a discussion between the forums, posts and participants.