Washington, DC – In Defense of Christians (IDC), the nation’s leading advocacy organization for Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East and Africa, commends Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), and other members of the United States Congress for standing firmly with Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rahi in his calls for active neutrality and an international conference to address the current political crisis in Lebanon.
On September 21, IDC hosted advocates, faith leaders, and Members of Congress at its eighth annual Summit and Solidarity Dinner. Numerous Members of Congress, particularly HFAC Members, echoed Congressman Deutch’s calls. Congressman Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX) condemned Hezbollah as “cancer in Lebanon,” and Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) expressed solidarity with Maronite Patriarch Rai.
Congressman Deutch, Chairman of the HFAC Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, issued particularly powerful remarks, stating “No where is Iran’s malign influence felt more acutely than in Lebanon.”
He went on to refer to Hezbollah as a group directly threatening the well being of the Lebanese people. Chairman Deutch urged Summit attendees to “[c]onsider the fate of prominent Lebanese activist Lokman Slim, whose criticism of Hezbollah led to his assassination this past February, or look at the threats against the life of Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Rahi after he recently had the courage to assert that an armed sub-national group should not be allowed to unilaterally launch a war with neighboring countries.”
The Middle East Subcommittee Chairman added that U.S. support of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and sanctions against corrupt Lebanese officials are both vital components of U.S.-Lebanon policy, for which IDC has been advocating. It is only through a strong and capable LAF that Hezbollah can be neutralized, and its illegal weapons be eradicated from within Lebanese territory, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
On September 22nd, IDC met with over 50 Congressional offices and 9 Members of Congress to advocate for strong U.S. engagement in Lebanon, including personal meetings with key officials such as Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), and Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Member of HFAC.
“IDC lauds the firm positions taken by Chairman Deutch, and other HFAC and SFRC members,” said IDC President Toufic Baaklini.
“Expanding the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to cover the Syrian border, and crafting a reasonable plan for refugees and displaced persons in Lebanon, that does not place the burden of this international problem squarely on the shoulders of Lebanon alone, are also vital ways we can help stabilize Lebanon. Lastly, the Lebanese people need our help. We are pleased to receive a commitment from a USAID official that specific assistance to religious and ethnic minority victims of the August 4 Port of Beirut Blast is on its way.” he added.
To watch a recording of the event, click here.