Christians joyfully celebrated the festivity in an atmosphere of growing misery and hardships. The refugee emergency has reached unsustainable levels and "aid is no longer sufficient." During Lent, the Christian charity provided medical care and treatments, and handed out food parcels. For Fr Paul, the international community must stop “the war and the arms trade".
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Paul Karam, director of Caritas Lebanon, spoke to AsiaNews about his country’s current situation. Whilst Christians “joyfully celebrated" Easter, the country remains in the grip of an “economic, social, and increasingly political crisis”.
In fact, with widespread poverty, not everyone “was able to celebrate this time of celebration,” the more so since Lebanon has had to play a leading role in managing the flow of Syrian and other refugees who have been crossing into its territory for the past four years.
"At Caritas, we celebrated with the whole community, visiting some Christian families. However, the current situation is weighing increasingly on people. The refugee problem compounds an already urgent economic situation. The help we are getting is no longer sufficient."
“Caritas employees and volunteers handed out food parcels to families in need,” he explained. “We wanted to give them a little help as a token of solidarity for this celebration. However, health is a real emergency as needs grow, not only among refugees, but also the Lebanese themselves."
Thanks to the availability and dedication of a number of doctors “working for free”, “we were able to provide medical care and treatment in the past few weeks”. However, the needs are huge.”
“We count on donations and partners for new projects,” but unlike the past, “not only do refugees need help, but so do many Lebanese families."
Over the years, Caritas Lebanon has never failed to lend assistance, providing not only food aid but also psychological support and encouraging exchanges between Christians and Muslims, particularly young people. However, the needs are growing in the face of increasingly scarce resources.
"We are going through a severe economic crisis,” Fr Paul said, “which is compounded by the failure to elect a president, who should guarantee the balance” of power. "With parliament deadlocked, laws are not being passed, and this is affecting the country’s development.”
Lebanon has "many needs and limited means". The "large number of refugees" weighs heavily "on society, the health system, and security. The poor are the first victims.”
During Lent, Caritas organised activities of solidarity and development for fleeing Syrian refugees but also poor Lebanese.
"The situation is critical,” the clergyman said. “There are great needs at several levels: food, water, medicines, shelter."
The international community should provide answers, not make proclamations, above all it should "stop the war in Syria and encourage the refugees to return to their homeland. The local Caritas is also working to that effect, in order to rebuild the country after peace is reached."
Yesterday, Oxfam released a report that shows that rich and developed countries took in less than 2 per cent of the more than five million Syrian refugees. For this reason, the NGO called for greater commitment to accept "at least 10 per cent" of the total.
"The report is telling the truth, not hiding it,” the Caritas director said. “Just look at what Lebanon is doing, at the proportion of locals vs refugees. It is hard to imagine our country’s huge needs, which, with all its limits, was able to open its doors.
“Today the rich nations can and must do more, especially towards stopping the war and the arms trade that fuels the spiral of violence, as Pope Francis said.”