Editors’ note: Despite Lebanon’s health, economic, social and political crises, a number of organizations continue their work, offering hope to families in need. Doreen Abi Raad gives a summary report of these organizations and their mission in her audio report below. A transcription follows. Read her full feature article on these inspiring organization.
As Lebanon sinks deeper into an awful economic crisis, fueling desperation among the Lebanese people, there are three organizations that continue to shine, like beacons of light and hope. Oum el Nour, or Mother of Light in English, is named for the Blessed Mother and helps to rehabilitate drug addicts suffering from the chains of addiction.
The community of Maryam and Martha, named for the two sisters who served Jesus in their home, provides a welcoming refuge for women and their children who are victims of violence and other traumatic social situations. Recently it has expanded its mission to also serve minor girls. And Message de Paix, or Message of Peace, offers a bright world of opportunities to developmentally challenged adults who are often overlooked by society.
All three organizations have developed and flourished under the guidance of Maronite Bishop Guy Paul Noujaim of Sarba, and have also received support from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Although the 86-year-old bishop is officially retired, he continues to be active in the three organizations.
“I don’t analyze too much,” he explained with his dry sense of humor. “That’s why I’m still healthy.”
Maronite Father Toni Abi Azar, who is Oum el Nour’s general manager, says very matter of factly about the bishop: “He’s a saint. He’s very humble. He has compassion for others. He suffers with the others and he wants everyone to feel the love of Christ. He shines in his simplicity.”
Lebanon is teetering on the edge of abyss amid its worsening crisis that has thrown more than 50 percent of the population into poverty. The bishop warns Lebanon is now in a very dangerous phase.
“Support is needed for Oum el Nour, Maryam and Martha and Message de Paix for us to maintain sustainability and to operate in the future,” the bishop says.
Doreen Abi Raad is a freelance writer in Beirut. She also writes for Catholic News Service and the National Catholic Register.