As Americans in the United States and beyond begin to celebrate Thanksgiving, we give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and mercy, especially in the time of this pandemic.
Based in Beirut, Doreen Abu Raad writes that in Lebanon, those who have survived the massive explosion that decimated much of Beirut last 4 August are giving thanks, too.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East, speaking at an international webinar cosponsored by CNEWA in September, sounded the alarm regarding Lebanon’s dire predicament.
Lebanon, he said, is “experiencing unprecedented economic, social and financial problems and is facing, as a result, an existential danger like never before in its history.”
“The middle class — the backbone of the population and the bedrock of a flourishing nation — is slipping sharply into poverty,” the patriarch noted.
More than half of the Lebanese population now lives below the poverty line amid massive unemployment. More and more, basic food items are out of reach financially for what used to be Lebanon’s middle class. And the poor are becoming poorer.
When a double-explosion rocked the port of Beirut and entire sections of Lebanon’s capital in August, it came as the last straw for the Lebanese. Grief, trauma, fear and shock are the lasting wounds of the catastrophe for the Lebanese, who feel injured from within and long to experience new hope arising from the ashes.
Nevertheless, Gassia Fahed is thankful her family was spared injury during the tragedy, considered one of the world’s biggest non-nuclear explosions ever. In sharing with ONE the challenges she and her husband face as they raise a growing family in Lebanon, Gassia clearly expresses what is in the hearts and minds of Lebanon’s Christians:
“We need a miracle in this country.”
Vibrant, educated and enterprising, Gassia presses forward with determination and joy, despite the humanitarian crisis and economic storm facing the Lebanese. More than anything, she wants to provide a good future for her children.
“Faith is the only thing that we have now. Literally, the only thing,” Gassia stresses.
“That’s the reason I can still smile.”
However, looking ahead to an uncertain horizon, a growing number of Lebanese Christians see no other recourse than to leave, as their homeland sinks further into collapse.
The weakening of the Christian community in Lebanon would be “a huge loss for the country, the Middle East and, indeed, the world,” the patriarch warned his audience in September.
To “all those who believe in the importance of a culture of freedom, moderation, diversity and interreligious co-living,” do not “forget Lebanon at this time of great need, as it faces the worst existential crisis in its history.”
Read more about the plight of Lebanon’s people following the devastating blast in Beirut in “Faith Is the Only Thing We Have Now” in the Autumn 2020 edition of ONE.