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07/27/2022 Lebanon (International Christian Concern) – Lebanese Maronite Archbishop Musa Al-Hajj was detained and interrogated upon his return from a trip to Israel on July 19. Al-Hajj, who was returning from pastoral duties as the archbishop for Haifa and the Holy Land, was detained at the border crossing and faced an eight-hour interrogation. While traveling, he visited the Lebanese Christian Maronite community, many of whom are refugees from the 1975-1990 civil war.

The clergyman also received a summons for military court interrogations the following day, along with a travel ban imposed by military courts. He was released only after church and judicial officials stepped in. Al-Hajj’s interrogation reportedly worked as an intimidation tactic against Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai.

Reports identify the threat against Al-Rai to originate in his vocal dissenting of Hezbollah, as well as a message to the Vatican and the identity of Lebanon. Al-Rai has spoken publically about the upcoming presidential elections in October, which will select a new Maronite president as outlined by the country’s constitution, including concerns about the political coercion of Hezbollah as an Iranian proxy. He commented, “We want to elect a president who does not pose a challenge to this or that matter, who is committed to the Lebanese cause, national constants, Lebanon’s sovereignty, and independence, and who abides by the principle of neutrality. We cannot call for Lebanon’s neutrality and choose a president who is biased toward certain axes.”

“The targeted persecution of a Catholic Archbishop tending to the spiritual wellbeing of his flock in the Holy Land is unacceptable, and if unchecked, will lead to harsher treatment,” commented an IDC board member.  Amin Gamayel, former President of Lebanon, also commented on the situation stating, “Arresting Al-Hajj while on a pastoral and humanitarian mission and summoning him for investigation before the military court constitute a harsh blow by a political-judicial-security narrow-minded thinking against the role represented by the archbishop of the holy land through his care for the conditions of the Maronites, as well as all other Christian and Muslim denominations in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.”

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