On Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 6:09pm Lebanon turned over a new leaf in its modern history. It is a new leaf stained with blood, as well as smeared with despair, with the loss of beloved ones, and with hopelessness for a bright future.
This massive explosion of tons of ammonium nitrate left the people aghast and unable for some time to comprehend the damage inflicted on their capital or rather on their future, as the Lebanese people have all the time sought to emit to the world sublime values of brotherhood and cultured nobility.
The Lebanese people did not believe what happened to their capital. It is a view that merges sorrow with despair. Over the past months, these people had a hard time in the wake of the rising life expenses following the free drop of Lebanese currency and the fight against the spread of coronavirus pandemic. The explosion further burdened them reflecting a bleak future and difficult days to come.
The blast, which was registered as a minor earthquake, tore through a number of central Beirut neighborhoods, destroying homes, shutting down three hospitals and leaving streets strewn with shattered glass and downed trees.
Beirut has witnessed many explosions in the past years, but this was by far the biggest and the shock waves reverberated beyond the immediate tragedy of lost lives and homes. It seemed to encapsulate everything that is wrong with Lebanon at this point in its turbulent history.
With Beirut blast unleashing a national catastrophe, world countries rushed to present aid to Lebanon in the hope of extricating this suffering country from the imbroglio in which it is embroiled.
CATHOLIC CHARITIES RUSH TO AID LEBANON
Numerous charities throughout the world have been quick to jump in, sending emergency funds in the days after the blast, and launching fundraising campaigns for long-term assistance as the country tries to get back on its feet.
On Friday, August 7, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis, through the department for Integral Human Development, sent nearly $300,000 in aid to Lebanon, as a sign of his “attention and closeness to the affected population and of his fatherly closeness to people in serious difficulty.”
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) also chipped in with almost $300,000, while Catholic news outlet AsiaNews also started a campaign called “Help Devastated Beirut” to raise funds “in order to help the people of Beirut and Lebanon,” proceeds from which will be sent to Caritas Lebanon.
The Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy also offered assistance through their program for migrants and refugees, Mediterranean Hope, while in the European Union released 33 million euros, roughly $40 million, to assist Lebanon, and numerous EU countries have already chipped in. Italy has sent specialists, firefighters and more than eight tons of humanitarian aid to Beirut.
On the other hand, the International Orthodox Christian Charities deployed $150,000 in emergency funding and began conversations with institutional donors about adjusting ongoing programs to help address the new crisis in Lebanon.
Furthermore, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the Hungarian government decided on Wednesday, August 4, to send one million euros in humanitarian aid to Lebanon to help victims of a deadly blast in Beirut and contribute to reconstruction efforts to follow.
HOW IS CATHOLIC EDUCATION NEGATIVELY AFFECTED?
Over the past century, Lebanese universities were the focus of Middle East students who wish to pursue higher education. The Catholic universities and schools, run by Catholic clergymen and women religious, have produced to the world renowned scientists and educated people who contributed greatly to scientific research and politics, thus serving the advancement of societies in various fields.
With the economic crisis ripping through Lebanon, it is estimated that about 80 per cent of Catholic schools, which provide education to approximately two-thirds of students in Lebanon’s private institutions, will close for the 2020-2021 school year, due to the lack of government aid. With the August 4 explosion, the educational situation is further exacerbated as Lebanon’s long-running economic crisis is taking a heavy toll on the country’s prestigious private education sector.
Even before the recent massive explosions and Covid-19, Lebanon was going through the worst economic crisis in its history, which triggered large-scale anti-government protests last year. Today, nearly half the country’s six million people are living below the poverty line.
In May, Pope Francis sent a donation of $200,000 to support 400 scholarships for students in Lebanese Catholic schools. Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon Archbishop Joseph Spiteri said, “because of political and social crises, the educational sector is suffering a lot, with young people paying a heavy price.”
WHEN WILL LEBANON’S OPEN WOUND HEAL?
Pope Francis has said that prayers and little gestures silently sow the seed of God’s love in the field of the world, making all things new. These gestures are capable of making the world more beautiful, or illuminating it with a ray of God’s love.
What we need nowadays is to sow the seed of God’s love in the field of this world and seek Lord Jesus Christ’s mercy.
With the need to seek the mercy of Lord Jesus Christ and the care of Blessed Mother Virgin Mary at this critical time, we pray saying:
Lord Jesus of Compassion,
You are strength to those who suffer and comfort to those who grieve.
We pray for the people of Lebanon in this time of disaster.
Embrace those who died so suddenly and console those who grieve for loved ones.
We pray for the healing and strength for those suffering; and to restore stability and peace in Lebanon.