Washington, DC, November 2, 2016 — This Monday, Oct. 31, Lebanon’s parliament elected Michel Aoun, an 81-year-old former army commander as the country’s president, ending a more than two-year vacuum in the top political post.
IDC applauds the Lebanese parliament for taking an important step forward toward a more stable and secure Lebanon.
IDC Executive Director Philippe Nassif stated, “We commend the Lebanese people for electing President Michele Aoun after a two year vacancy. We hope President Aoun will continue along the path towards building a sovereign, independent, and stable Lebanon while preserving its unique democratic system and Christian population.”
The political gridlock and presidential vacancy has prevented the Lebanese government from addressing critical social and economic challenges, including the ongoing refugee crisis.
Lebanon has been asked to shoulder an enormous burden as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria. With approximately 1.5 million declared Syrian refugees and an additional half million who are undeclared, Lebanon is hosting more refugees proportionally than any country in the world. The refugee crisis has further depressed the economy of Lebanon, which has a national debt of approximately 140 percent of the gross domestic product.
Although Lebanon has taken an important step forward in resolving the political crisis, these social and economic challenges continue to put the country’s stability in the balance. It is critical that the United States continue to support the efforts of the Lebanese people to restore the country’s governance and economy.
“Lebanon is a beacon of pluralism and has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East. It is in the interests of the United States to help preserve its unique political constitution, a pluralistic democracy in the Middle East with a framework of confessionalism, by ensuring that it is not destabilized by the refugee crisis,” IDC President Toufic Baaklini stated.
In September, In Defense of Christians worked with members of the House and Senate to introduce a bipartisan, bi-cameral resolution urging Congress to provide humanitarian and security assistance to Lebanon as it plays a pivotal role in the fight against ISIS and is generously struggling to host a staggering number of refugees.
Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced H. Res. 852 with 14 original sponsors and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and David Perdue (R-GA), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the companion senate resolution, S. Res. 553.
To help preserve a fragile sense of stability in Lebanon, the U.S. has and should continue to provide humanitarian support, as well as economic and security assistance to the government of Lebanon.