Middle East's only Christian President says his message is peace

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (R) meets with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi at the presidental palace in Baabda, Lebanon, February 3, 2017.Reuters

In a region torn by conflict and hate, a Christian political leader—the only one in the region—lit the light of hope and peace just before Easter, the celebration of Jesus' resurrection.

Michel Aoun, the newly elected President of Lebanon and the only Christian president in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), spoke to SAT-7 on Thursday to relate the message of Jesus' resurrection to the search for peace in the region.

"Resurrection is what we wish for after death. This is the Christian hope based on our faith. Without it, there is no Christianity and no resurrection," he told the news outlet in an interview.

Aoun emphasized the significance of Jesus' resurrection by quoting the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith."

Aoun—who was elected president by the Lebanese parliament on Oct. 31, 2016, which ended a 29-month power vacuum in the country—emphasized the need for peace, coexistence, and tolerance in the Middle East. "I carry a message of peace," he declared.

Aoun is an ally of the powerful Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, Reuters noted.

He was prime minister of one of two rival Lebanese governments at the end of the 1975-90 civil war. He fought two wars during that period, one against Syrian forces in Lebanon, and another against a powerful Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces.

The Syrian army ousted him from power in 1990 and he went into exile in France. He returned to Lebanon in 2005 after Syrian troops withdrew following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The following year, Aoun declared an alliance with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, which has remained in effect.

In the SAT-7 interview, the former army general lamented that the political turmoil in the region is greatly affecting Christians.

He focused on the plight of Christians in Israel who, he claimed, are being evicted from their land. "Christians in Jerusalem once constituted 22 percent of Israel's population. Now, we are left with only about one percent," he said.

Aoun has vowed to turn Lebanon into a regional and global model of peaceful coexistence among people of differing faiths. He said he is seeking "blessing" from the United Nations in his plan to promote Lebanon as the international hub for religious dialogue. "Lebanon encompasses the ultimate mix of cultural, religious, and ethnic groups in the world," he said.

Aoun urged the people of the region, regardless of their faiths, to hold on to their hope of eventually overcoming the many challenges in their lives.

He urged the people not to give in to fear, doubt, and temptation, saying these are the "main reasons of failure in life" as conveyed by Jesus to His disciples.

Meanwhile, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem offered an Easter message to the world that celebrates the resurrection as well as unity in Christ.

"The message of Easter, which was first announced in Jerusalem, and has echoed down the centuries, now resounds again in Jerusalem, the city of the Resurrection," reads the message.

"It is our prayer that the hope established through our risen Lord will enlighten the leaders and nations of the whole world to see this light, and to perceive new opportunities to work and strive for the common good and recognize all as created equal before God," reads the message.

"This light of Christ draws the whole human family towards justice, reconciliation and peace, and to pursue it diligently."

This article was originally published in The Christian Post.

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