Cardinal Sfeir Laments Efforts to Islamize Education in Lebanon

Lenten Message Highlights a Range of Problems

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BEIRUT, Lebanon, FEB. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, warns that an attempt is being made to Islamize public and private education in Lebanon.



In a Lenten message to the faithful and all the population of Lebanon, published on the patriarchate's Web page (www.bkerke.org.lb), the Maronite patriarch invites the Lebanese to a "clear cooperation characterized by transparency."

Cardinal Sfeir focuses on problems that affect the Lebanese governing class, including corruption, nepotism and the impossibility of making free decisions.

To safeguard coexistence in a democratic system, the people must have the right to "ask for explanations from" those who govern them, he said.

The cardinal lamented that drugs, alcoholism and gambling are ever more widespread in the country, making it harder for families to ensure the education of their children.

Cardinal Sfeir is especially concerned about the attempt to Islamize both public and private education, given that the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- a sort of Muslim UNESCO -- is allowed to operate in the country and exercise its influence on the Lebanese school system.

Such Islamization of education is "a threat not only to schools but to all of Lebanese culture," he said.

To promote Islamic education as an absolute ideal for schooling is to ignore that in Lebanon "there are two religions, two cultures and two civilizations at work, pertaining to Christianity and Islam," the cardinal said. "Both together form one people."

AsiaNews reported that, in his homily last Sunday in Bkerke, the patriarch pointed out that one of the real problems in contemporary Lebanese society is the disappearance of the middle class, linked to the failure of the government's postwar policies.

"We are deeply grieved," he said, "that the middle class has ceased to exist, thereby dividing society between the large majority of those who are starving and the small minority of those who are overfed."