Our Sunday Visitor has just published this account of Lebanon’s deepening crisis, written by Michael J.L. LaCivita, CNEWA’s communications director.
“Tuesday, August 4th, marks the worst day in Lebanon since the civil war,” said Michel Constantin. The soft-spoken husband and father of three has witnessed much in his native city, joining the projects staff of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in Beirut as a young man during the worst days of that country’s civil war in 1989.
“Beirut was a bloodbath in those days, as opposing Christian factions shelled one another’s positions,” he said, recalling those waning days of the civil war that turned Christian against Christian — proxies for outside interests — in the eastern neighborhoods of Beirut.
But that August evening in the height of a Mediterranean summer shook him, as the ground shook and then the sound of the explosion shattered windows all around him, even in Beirut’s suburbs.
“Our office in Jal el Dib — just a few miles from the site of the explosion of ammonium nitrate in the Beirut port — suffered damages, with shattered glass and torn aluminum window frames that littered our work places and meeting rooms. Thank God they were empty, as we all had finished our day,” he said.
The explosion, which leveled much of the port and the Quarantina district that lies adjacent to it, killed almost 200 people, injured another 6,000, and displaced more than 300,000 people — 80,000 of whom are children. The explosion devastated the nearby fashionable center of Beirut, the historically Christian neighborhood of Ashrafieh, damaging Ottoman-era palaces, houses and high-rise apartment buildings. Unfortunately for Lebanon, three of the country’s best hospitals — private Catholic and Orthodox facilities that serve all, regardless of religious confession — are located there as well, and they suffered damages so extensive that they have been shuttered.
“Fifteen of the 18 floors of the Rosary Sisters’ hospital, located just meters from the blast, are destroyed,” Constantin reported.
…The Congregation for the Eastern Churches has asked CNEWA and L‘Oeuvre d ‘Orient, a Paris-based Catholic organization that has long worked in the Middle East with CNEWA, to coordinate worldwide Catholic aid for Lebanon’s hospitals and schools, an initiative that will help focus aid and eliminate redundancies.