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By Leila Hatoum

For the full article, go to Lebanon Daily Star. BEIRUT : Taking to the streets has never been a solution to any of Lebanon ‘s problems, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir said Thursday. Addressing a crowd of female relatives and widows of assassinated Lebanese leaders at the Maronite seat in Bkirki, the influential patriarch said a demonstration against the government to be held by the opposition Friday would only make matters worse.

“We have said this before and we repeat it now, strikes and demonstrations, taking to the streets and other steps of escalation they might rely on, we don’t see them as solving any of the problems we are facing but rather complicating them,” the patriarch said.

“You know very well that if some people take to the streets and others take to the streets to face them, we would have a collision and clashes as a result,” he added. “We don’t know where that would lead us or where it would end.”

Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition have called on all supporters to gather in the capital Friday to demand that the government, dominated by a majority from the anti-Syrian March 14 Forces, step down and be replaced by a more representative body.

“We are fed up with assassinations and deaths and clashes among the Lebanese. The Lebanese proved a long time ago they can coexist regardless of their religion or sect. Yet, there are some who are trading with Lebanese lives, and some Lebanese have become merchandise in the hands of others,” Sfeir said. ” Lebanon is distinguished by the fact that some 18 sects coexist within its borders. This is what makes Lebanon rare because Muslims and Christians coexist in this country, and it shall remain like that, the country of Muslims and Christians.”

Sfeir said it was time for Lebanon to become Lebanese.

“Enough following others. Enough being the followers of East or West. The Lebanese must be Lebanese and not followers,” he said.
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“We don’t want to go back 30 years [to the outset of the country’s 15-year Civil War]. This will never happen,” he added. “We though that we had turned a new page of peace and stability and safety in Lebanon , but apparently there are some who don’t want this country to be stable. The main evidence of that is what we are witnessing every day.”

Sfeir also noted the disastrous effect the political deadlock has had on the economy.

“I have been speaking to economists and they said the economy is deteriorating, employees are being laid off, hotels have few tourists and the Lebanese are immigrating in hundreds. This is unacceptable,” Sfeir said.

“We do not accept that the Lebanese become immigrants across the globe in search of an alternate country … Lebanon is ours and shall remain our country; we will not accept an alternate country whatever that country is. It belongs to us, our children, and our grandchildren after us,” he added.

“I know you have suffered, lost a husband or a brother or

a relative, and are wearing black clothes for that. This must not continue. Everything has a limit, and together we say enough,” said the prelate, speaking to the women clad in black.