AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED (ACN) has been working for decades with numerous different project partners in Lebanon—above all in the areas of pastoral care and help for refugees. This experience is proving to be a great advantage in the aftermath of the recent catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut. ACN has immediately sent $300,000 in emergency aid for starving Christian families, many of whom are facing real hunger. There is a great deal more still to be done. For example, the Christian quarter of Beirut has been extensively damaged. Regina Lynch, director of projects for ACN, talks about the situation in Beirut and what further aid the organization is planning.
What news do you hear from the project partners in Beirut? What is the situation in the city? Beirut is in a state of crisis. There is hardly any electricity and, in some places, no means of communication (telephone, internet, etc.). Some 90,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. The international aid in the amount of $297 million promised on Sunday falls far short of what is needed to rebuild the Christian district affected by the explosion.
What is the local Church doing to help those who have survived the disaster?
Already before the explosion, the Catholic Patriarchates (Maronite, Greek-Catholic, Syriac-Catholic, Armenian) in Lebanon had engaged local parishes and institutions such as Caritas, St. Vincent de Paul and the Pontifical Mission Societies. They created a committee to see how to help those Christians who were already facing soaring inflation, coupled with spiraling unemployment. Many families were already on the brink of starvation and many Christians were already talking of leaving the country.
Since an aid distribution plan had already been set up, this now means that the Church is in a good position for distributing the aid that is being provided by foreign NGOs, e.g. food, medicine, blankets. It is inspiring to see the role that the Catholic young people are playing in helping with the distribution of the emergency aid.
For what purpose will the aid from ACN be used?
The initial aid of $300,000 from ACN will be used for supplying food packages to 5,000 families, most of whom were affected by the explosion, but also to those Christians, as well as Christian refugees, who were already struggling to survive before the explosion. Some of Lebanon’s main grain silos were destroyed in the explosion, resulting in even higher food prices.
What other relief efforts is ACN planning?
Some 80 percent of the Christian district of Achrafieh has been among the areas worst affected by the explosion; the part of it nearest to the port has disappeared. Hundreds of Christian families have lost their homes and livelihoods. Numerous Catholic hospitals and dispensaries are in urgent need of repair so that they can continue to function. Countless Church structures have been destroyed or badly damaged, e.g. St. George’s Maronite Cathedral, several parish churches, the Middle East provincial houses of various congregations, convents. Aid to the Church in Need is working with our local Church partners to see which of these needs can be addressed immediately and which subsequently, in the next few months before winter sets in. Christians in Lebanon can be sure that they can count on the prayers and financial support of ACN’s benefactors.
By: Tobias Lehner