“He is a Great Example for Humanity”

Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai visits the Lebanese-American community of Detroit.

A recent visitor to CNEWA is now paying a visit to metropolitan Detroit, bearing a message of peace and unity that made headlines in the local press:

To the beat of Arabic drums and horns, one of the Mideast’s most prominent Christian leaders strolled on a red carpet Monday into a Lebanese center in Dearborn as the crowd cheered.

The visit by Lebanese Maronite Catholic Patriarch Bechara Rai, 72, to a Shia Muslim center illustrated how his four-day visit to metro Detroit this week has brought together metro Detroit’s diverse Lebanese-American communities.

“He’s a great example for humanity,” Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad, who is of Lebanese descent, said after meeting Rai.

Wearing a black cloak over a red robe with a golden cross hung around his neck, Rai beamed as he entered the Bint Jebail Cultural Center, a place named after a southern Lebanese town where many Dearborn residents have ancestral roots. A crowd quickly formed around him, taking pictures and lining up to shake his hand.

Elected last year as the spiritual leader of the Maronite Catholic community, Rai is touring North America to visit Lebanese-American communities.

Michigan has about 58,000 residents of Lebanese descent, but they come from various religions, sects and regions that at times have clashed. Tensions in Lebanon among various groups can spill over into metro Detroit. Christian-Muslim relations are tense of late in parts of the Arab world.

You can read more at the link. And you can check out our own coverage of the patriarch’s visit to CNEWA last fall here, including a video of part of his talk. And for more on the Lebanese-American community of Dearborn, Michigan, read Forging a New Detroit in the January 2010 issue of ONE.

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