Many parishes in Lebanon have reduced expensive Christmas celebrations this year, in order to help families in difficulties. They are offering food banks and free medical services.
The parish of San Maroun in Haret Sakher, near Harissa, has set up a special committee to coordinate the parish’s charity work over coming weeks and young people have been collecting food and medicines.
The Jesuit Notre-Dame de Jamhour College near Beirut is one educational establishment recommending that everyone allocates resources traditionally destined to buy gifts for Christmas to charity. This week they invited parents to donate grains, rice, pasta and powdered milk.
“Brother, if you have no money, do not be ashamed and do not leave your family without food. Please come in and take what you need: coffee, spices, cereals, because God cares about you and me.” This message, (see picture) placed by Mr Abd Bitari in the shop window of his grocery store in Nabatieh, in southern Lebanon (area with a Shiite majority), has become the symbol of the spirit of resilience of the Lebanese population facing the political economic emergency that is devastating the country.
What also contributed to the wave of spontaneous solidarity initiatives was the emotion aroused throughout the country by the case of a man from the city of Arsal, whose wife was suffering from cancer. He took his own life after falling into debt and was not able to give a small amount of money that his daughter had asked him for, before going to school.
People are offering help in many different ways. There are those who offer methane for heating, those who have no money to buy it, doctors and lawyers guarantee free assistance to those who need it most, food banks and pharmaceutical companies that collect food and medicine to redistribute them to families in desperate need.
Weeks of demonstrations and roadblocks have caused the closure of many schools, increasing the crisis factors of many educational institutes promoted by the Churches. To recover class hours, schools will remain open also on Christmas Eve.
By: Claire Bergin