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Lebanon's Latest Church-State Scuffle

In Lebanon’s complex, diverse society, religious institutions often take on vocal roles in protecting what they regard as affronts to the sanctity of their beliefs.
The Caracalla Dance Theatre performs a new theatrical production of "The village" (Al-Dayaa) during a dress rehearsal during the Baalbeck International Festival in Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley, July 14, 2009. The Baalbeck International Festival is an annual entertainment festival that takes place in July and August in the Roman Ruins of the Baalbek Temples. REUTERS/Ahmed Shalha (LEBANON SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT) - RTR25NWB
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In a rare instance of solidarity, the hard-line Association of Muslim Scholars endorsed the Lebanese Orthodox Church’s objection to the presentation of a particular dance performance during the Baalbek International Festival in August, which, due to the war in Syria, has been relocated from the Roman ruins of the City of the Sun in the Bekaa Valley, to a 19th century silk factory in Sid El Baouchriyeh, a suburb north of Beirut.

The church’s objection, voiced by Beirut’s Orthodox priests in the name of Archbishop Elias Audi, came as a result of world-renowned Belgian-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s use of a Byzantine hymn to the Virgin Mary as part of his only performance in the festival. In their letter to the festival’s organizing committee, the priests stated, “Despite our appreciation for your efforts and our support for art and culture in general, we categorically object to the mixing between what is holy and what is artistic, and ask that you refrain from using the hymn that you have chosen during the dance recital.”

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