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Declaring the Qadisha Valley as a Maronite-protected environment.

Maronite pledge, October 30, 2003:

Photo courtesy of AFDC (afdc.org.lb)

For over 1,500 years the Church has found sanctuary, peace and a prayerful life amidst the natural beauty and Godliness of the forests, valleys, caves, pathways and hills of Qadisha. It was to the natural beauty of Qadisha that the early hermits turned to understand more of the nature of God and salvation. It was to the safety and sustainability of the Holy Valley that the Patriarchate turned in times of persecution.

As the Holy Valley has protected the Church in the past, now the church wants to protect the Holy Valley. Already, in 1998 at the request of the Maronite Patriarchate this Holy Valley has been declared by UNESCO part of the World Heritage. In so doing, we wished to witness that the land, and the flora and fauna on it, do not ultimately belong to us. We are simply the guardians of what belongs to God. It is this spirit that made the Church respect for centuries such natural sites as Qadisha.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats:

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25 (31-46)
But today, new threats endanger this holy site and so many others. Qadisha is now threatened by the intrusion of the modern world and the demands it imposes on such a sacred place. Therefor the Church is speaking boldly and makes it clear to all that what belongs to the Church in the Holy Valley of Qadisha will remain, protected, managed and owned for God by the Church. It is this conviction that leads us to state that the Holy Valley of Qadisha is now to be known as The Maronite Protected Environment of Qadisha.

We invite the State of Lebanon to join us as partners in this historic decision by awarding the Maronite Protected Environment of Qadisha the status of a National Park. We also commend the Maronite Protected Environment of Harissa as a National Park as well.

In protecting these areas, the Church will continue to ensure that the diversity of plants, trees, animals and birds given by God, nurtured by the Church will be maintained. Following the vision of the Church Fathers and in the tradition of service to humanity embodied in Our Lord’s Words in the gospel of Matthew Chapter 25/31-46.

The Church sees the service to humanity as well as to all Creation as central to its mission. Therefore, in developing the protection of the Holy Valley, the Church is mindful of the human tradition of agriculture and settlement within the Holy Valley which has over the centuries proved to be sustainable and compatible with the wider protection of the sanctity, prayerfulness and wildlife of the Holy Valley. In this spirit, traditional patterns of human use of the Holy Valley will be safeguarded.

Together with the Government, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), The Association for Forest Development and Conservation (AFDC), the Qadisha Valley Conservation Group and other relevant local communities and groups we will make sure that these sacred places are managed in the spirit of the Psalmist: “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”.

We are aware that not only does the world need to know why we are making this clear statement, but our own faithful need to understand that this action springs from our faith. St Maron sought God in the winderness of creation, amidst nature itself.

Today, in the spirit of St Maron we need to rediscover why God wishes His Church to care for nature, through education, teaching and preaching. In looking again at the life of St Maron and the thousands of hermits who sought Christ in the wilderness, in the forests and valleys, we believe we can become true believers by caring for all aspects of God's creation."

London, October 30, 2003.



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