Archbishop in southern Lebanon: “We find ourselves in a state of war!”

ACN and the local Church are calling for prayer so that peace may be restored to the region. Daily rocket fire in southern Lebanon is plunging the inhabitants into deeper poverty than they were already suffering as a result of the terrible financial crisis in 2019. The Church is standing with the people, providing practical help for their needs and providing a moving witness of courage.

As a result of the war in Gaza, daily rocket fire is taking place in southern Lebanon. Areas near the Israeli border are particularly affected.

Archbishop Charbel Abdallah in the warehouse where the food packages were stored
Archbishop Charbel Abdallah in the warehouse where the food packages were stored

“The eyes of the world are on the war in Gaza, but something that the media rarely reports is the fact that this has resulted in an armed conflict taking place in southern Lebanon,” said Marielle Boutros, Project Coordinator of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) in Lebanon. “As with the people in Gaza, this is not the first war which the people in southern Lebanon have had to experience. They can’t cope with the noise of the rockets anymore and are traumatised. They really need our prayers.”

The Maronite Archbishop of Tyre, Mgr. Charbel Abdallah, whose archdiocese is one of the oldest in the world, told ACN that despite the fact that “we find ourselves in a state of war”, most people who had fled to Beirut or further north have now returned home because they were short of money and the little houses of their relatives who took them in did not have the capacity to accommodate so many people. In the ten parishes near the Israeli border, which make up almost the whole of the Maronite Archdiocese of Tyre, 70% of believers have now returned. “The parishes of Alma el Chaeb and Quzah are, however, still nearly empty, because they lie entirely in the areas of the air strikes; a large proportion of the houses there have been completely destroyed.”

Livelihoods destroyed for years

According to the archbishop, the people in these ten parishes can no longer bring in their harvest because their fields are now a conflict zone. In addition, many fires caused by phosphorus bombs have destroyed cultivated fields and fruit trees which will have an effect for years to come. Archbishop Abdallah laments that all these people, who have been robbed of their one source of income, are not receiving any help from the state: “In the face of these many needs the state is completely absent. The people are becoming poorer and poorer and can no longer live dignified lives. Because of extreme inflation, the insurance cover of the social security fund for hospital stays, visits to the doctor or medicine are hardly present.”

Southern Lebanon after rocket explosions
Southern Lebanon after rocket explosions

Despite this, Marielle Boutros is deeply impressed by the courage and faithfulness of the many project partners of ACN in southern Lebanon. “None of them – whether bishops, priests, religious brothers or nuns – have left the region in the face of the constant danger. They feel responsible for staying with the people in their need and offering them support and comfort.” Even the priests of the two parishes Alma el Chaeb and Quzah, who find themselves amid the air strikes, are still in place to strengthen the few remaining believers.

Archbishop visits parishes despite the mortal danger

Every Sunday and sometimes also during the week, Archbishop Abdallah himself visits the parishes affected by the war, although twice already during his visits, bombs have landed nearby. After Mass he meets the faithful, “to talk about the situation.” The archbishop and his pastoral staff try in these difficult times to give witness to their faith through actions before they do so with words: “We try to keep the spiritual life of the parishes going by celebrating all the usual festivals, whether the festivals of the liturgical year, the festivals of patron saints or First Communion. After the celebrations we listen to the people to see what needs they have and to help them with our modest means.” Archbishop Abdallah has found that these visits “encourage the people enormously; they sense that they have not been left in the lurch by the Church.”

Mgr Charbel Abdallah is the Maronite Archbishop of the diocese of Tyr in South Lebanon, one of the oldest dioceses of the world and one of the poorest of Lebanon
Mgr Charbel Abdallah is the Maronite Archbishop of the diocese of Tyr in South Lebanon, one of the oldest dioceses of the world and one of the poorest of Lebanon

To be able to help the people, the local Church, which is one of the poorest in the country, is dependent on outside support. “Fortunately, Catholic organisations like ACN and other NGOs are present,” reports the Maronite archbishop, who is very grateful for the longstanding help of ACN. “Every month, ACN provides food parcels to thousands of needy families and thereby gives vital support. Beyond this, hundreds of sick people receive monthly help to buy medicine. The charity has also equipped a health centre in one of our big parishes to support the local families. Many thanks to all the benefactors for their generosity! Please pray for us, pray that this war in the Middle East ends as quickly as possible!”


By Sina Hartert.

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