Respect religious freedom in Mideast, patriarch urges

October 31, 2011
Patriarch Bechara Rai

Patriarch Bechara Rai

Unless Middle Eastern countries support religious freedom and respect human rights, the "Arab spring" movement will devolve into an "Arab winter," said Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai.

Patriarch Rai said the "Arab spring" movement holds much promise, but its leaders must "adopt a separation between religion and state."

He said such a system exists in his native Lebanon and "respects all religions and all values of each religion.

We wish to see freedom practised in those countries.

We wish to see the values of human rights and democracy implemented," he told a news conference Oct. 20 at the New York headquarters of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.