More controversy over 'political conduct charter' of the Lebanese Christians

Beirut, Lebanon - Reaction continues, especially in Christian circles, to the "charter of political conduct" published on March 6 by the Maronite Church, in agreement with the other Lebanese Christian confessions. Yesterday, former president Amin Gemayel defended the value and significance of the document in the face of negative reactions from circles that, in his view, are aiming at "undermining" the foundations of the country, by attacking the patriarchate just as they do the army and state institutions.

In reality, the charter, seen in the perspective of the June elections, originated in recommendations from both the synod of the Maronite Church and the joint session of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Churches in March of 2008. It addresses ethics in the exercise of political power and the relationship of this power with the Church, considers the room for collaboration, affirms the principle of state secularism, emphasizing mutual independence, and stresses the relations between political action and human dignity, human rights, and the common good.

Noting that political life has "deviated" from the right path, and that it is necessary to correct its course, the charter aims at making politicians aware of their responsibilities and defining the criteria - and this is the part that has prompted the greatest opposition - that should guide citizens in choosing their political representatives, in order to control their activity and hold them accountable.

In the first part, the charter defines the principles relative to politics, considered as "a noble art in the service of man and of the common good," to the relationship between Church and state, to the participation of citizens in political life. The second part is dedicated to Lebanon, as a country with its own specificity and its own values, its formula of coexistence, its shared responsibility in the construction of a civil and democratic state. The third part, finally, elaborates the principles already stated and enumerates the rules of political action.

Among other things, it affirms that "there exist principles on which democratic practice is founded. These are: truth, from which descends the relationship between the leaders and the citizens; transparency and impartiality in public administration; respect for the rights of political adversaries; protection of the rights of the accused who are victims of arbitrary sentencing; the proper use of public funds; the rejection of wrongful and illicit means in order to gain, preserve, and increase one's own power at all costs, to the detriment of the common good."

There is also a clarification concerning Lebanon's "specificity" as a "parliamentary democratic republic, founded on respect for public freedoms, chief among which is freedom of opinion and conscience, on social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens, without distinctions or preferences." "No legitimacy is granted to an authority that contradicts the pact of common life. The definitive character of the Lebanese nation places before all Lebanese who are at its foundation a sacred duty, which is that of defending its independence, its full sovereignty, the freedom of its children to make their own fundamental decisions and to confront any attempt of occupation of its territory and of threat to its sovereignty."