Lebanon has been going through economic decline and political crises for the past three years. And the situation worsened because of the pandemic and the huge explosion in the port of Beirut. The blast damaged numerous churches and church facilities. As a result, the local church faces a difficult task, but we did not abandon it.
Cooperation between Christian churches in Lebanon
Lebanon has often been praised as a model for the entire Middle East also due to the comparatively stable coexistence of religions. The country was once the only in the Middle East with a Christian majority. Today only 34% of the inhabitants are Christians. Of the young people under 25, only a quarter are Christian.
More Christians are leaving the country due to the severe economic crisis and the increasing loss of confidence in the political system. Yet Lebanese Christians enjoy a high level of respect. Not to mention that the population value Christian schools, which are perceived to form a bridge of tolerance between the different religious communities in the country.
« I am grateful for organisations like ACN that show solidarity with the needs of the churches. »
Maronite Archbishop Emeritus ChucrallahNabil El-Hage of Tyros
The cooperation of the Christian churches in Lebanon is crucial. They are contact points for the suffering and a place of refuge for many fleeing Syria and Iraq. More than 1.5 million refugees from Syria came to Lebanon, which had only four million inhabitants. In 2019, the situation in Lebanon worsened when a severe economic and political crisis hit the country. Unemployment is now high.
Lebanese living below the poverty line
According to the United Nations, three-quarters of the Lebanese population live below the poverty line. The devaluation of the currency has led to a increase in food prices. Many people can barely cover their basic needs. Added to this is the failure of the national electricity supply. Even in Beirut, many inhabitants only have power for one hour a day. After sunset, the capital city falls into darkness, as most residents cannot afford batteries. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation. People are on the brink of famine.
« Lebanon is the last refuge for many people displaced by war. »
The explosion in Beirut harbor in August 2020 exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. And it is still a trauma for many Lebanese. A total of 100,000 buildings were destroyed, and several hundred thousand people were left homeless. It was one of the most severe non-nuclear explosions in human history. The Lebanese capital was crushed, and with it, the entire country. The explosion damaged around 80% of the buildings in the Catholic district of Achrafieh – including Catholic hospitals, churches, and monasteries. Thousands of Christian families lost their homes and livelihoods.
ACN’s aid to Lebanon
Because of the desperate situation, we increased our aid to Lebanon. Previously, most of the funding was to support Syrian refugees. Now it is for Lebanese people. Projects we supported in 2021 included food parcels for needy families, heating materials to help people get through the harsh winter, and Mass stipends to support the clergy. Moreover, they also included restoration and reconstruction work, besides educational projects. For example, we funded Catholic schools because schooling and faith formation for young Christians are also a priority.
In 2021, we also continued supporting Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We contributed to heating costs and provided funds to cover school fees. We also continued financing “the St John the Merciful Table,” which provides a hot meal to about 1,500 Syrian refugees and local needy people in Zhalé. The relief kitchen near the Syrian bord delivers food to disabled, frail, and sick people, who receive spiritual comfort and human attention from the staff. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church launched the project in 2015, and we support it. We were able to help with 700,000 euros in 2021.