News / Middle East

Demonstrators Call for Secular State in Lebanon

More than 2,000 people have marched through the streets of downtown Beirut calling for a secular state.

It started on the social-networking site Facebook, a call to arms by people who believe church and state should not be one. After the online movement grew, Laique Pride organizers decided to take that spirit off-line, staging a rally through downtown Beirut to the Lebanese Parliament.

While the Laique Pride movement stops short of calling for specific demands, they want to move away from a state based on religion, says Yelda Yones, one of the organizers. She says the tradition of Lebanese apathy must stop.

"It is up to us to do something if we want it to change," she said. "To stop nagging about the system not functioning and start doing something about it and stay positive and united."

Lebanon is home to 18 religious sects and is deeply divided along sectarian lines, with Parliament seats allocated by religious affiliation and its president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.

In Lebanon, only religious authorities can perform marriages, register births and deaths, and rule on matters of inheritance, so the rights of citizens vary by religious group and are not uniform.

Another rally organizer, Said Chaitou says reforming the state to become more secular will not infringe on peoples' personal religious beliefs.

"Lebanese people should understand what is secularism and do not be afraid of it," he said. "It is not against religion, it is not against them practicing. Secularism will bring equality between all the Lebanese people."

No politicians attended the rally, although some have called for civil marriage rights in Lebanon. Demonstrator Munther Yehya says the existing system benefits politicians.

"It is against their political interest, which here translates into their economic and financial interests," said Yehya.

While dozens of parents rolling strollers came out for the cause, in addition to politicians, the rally also lacked support from the older generations.

Rima Maroun says gathering attention from a wider demographic will take time.

"We know that all of the big manifestations that happened in the world were launched by the young generation, so we hope that this thing can drag the older people and motivate them to come because they are tired of doing," said Maroun. "If we do not have the energy to do these kinds of things, nothing can ever change."

Organizers say their next step is to launch an online forum that will be open to the public to exchange ideas about how best to achieve secular reforms. They also say they plan to hold the rally again next year.

You May Like

As AIDS Epidemic Matures, Workplaces Adapt

Issue of AIDS in workplace is one of many social issues being discussed at the 20th International Aids Conference in Australia More

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid