Monday, June 25, 2007

Cabinet faces crucifixion for canceling Good Friday

Cabinet faces crucifixion for canceling Good Friday
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The Cabinet's decision to no longer acknowledge Good Friday as an official national holiday triggered an outcry from a number of prominent Lebanese Christians over the weekend. Good Friday is "a central day in Christian culture," Jbeil Maronite Archbishop Bishara Raii said during an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) Saturday. "Canceling it as a holiday is a violation of Christian norms. "The government should have consulted with various Christian religious figures before issuing any decisions. Christians would never allow such a key day to be simply left off calendars," Raii said. Tourism Minister Joe Sarkis had defended the move, saying that the government had intended to make Lebanon's holidays "the same as those of other Arab countries." In response, Raii said the holidays celebrated in Lebanon should not be compared with other Arab countries, because it is "known that Lebanon has particular demographic and religious characteristics that ought to be preserved." The Cabinet had voted in December to alter the official schedule of holidays, but the decision was only published in the Official Gazette last week. The Cabinet had also approved other changes to the official holiday schedule - making the Monday after Easter a holiday and removing one day from the two-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

In a bid to clarify the stance of Christian ministers concerning the matter, Culture Minister Tarek Mitri called Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir to brief him on the decision, telling the prelate that the move "in no way stems from political or sectarian considerations." Local daily An-Nahar quoted Mitri in an article published Sunday as saying that he had informed Sfeir of the government's willingness to "modify its decree to abide by any decision the Christian clerics make." Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea expressed concern that Christian ministers did not show "much vigilance" regarding the issue of the distribution of holidays, given "all the meanings associated with Good Friday." The opposition "is manipulating Good Friday," Geagea said on LBC Sunday morning. "They want to give the decision political dimensions." Geagea also rejected media reports that blamed Premier Fouad Siniora for the move, saying: "Siniora did not cancel the holiday ... No one person can. " The government is trying to promote the economy by decreasing the number of holidays for both Muslims and Christians," Geagea said. Former MP Suleiman Franjieh's Marada Movement condemned Sunday the Cabinet's actions as "yet another step undertaken by the Siniora government to marginalize Christians even more," and called on the government to apologize for their "sin." - The Daily Star

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