Caritas Lebanon: distrust and divisions two years after the port disaster
Fr Abboud talks about a country and a people who feel "lost and astray”. Too much secrecy surrounds the investigation into the disaster, which is still far from the truth. Even among the victims’ families, rifts have emerged, largely fuelled by politics. The state of the healthcare and educational systems is worrying. AsiaNews renews its campaign in support of Catholic schools.
Milan (AsiaNews) – The Lebanese feel "lost and astray" because "they still do not know the truth” about what happened at the port of Beirut two years ago. Too much secrecy surrounds the affair two days before the anniversary of the explosion.
The president of Caritas Lebanon Fr Michel Abboud spoke to AsiaNews about the situation amid a climate of division and rifts, even among the families of the victims.
For the clergyman, “The memory of the event is causing so much suffering, coming on top of the country’s severe economic crisis, the worst in its history, and general distrust towards politicians.”
People are suffering, feeling hopeless, without any strength to react, overwhelmed by a sense of fatigue.
Mourning and divisions
Lebanon will hold a National Day of Mourning on Thursday, 4 August, to mark the second anniversary of the explosion at a warehouse in the port of Beirut that contained hundreds of tonnes of poorly stored ammonium nitrate.
More than 220 people were killed in the blast, with 6,500 more injured and entire neighbourhoods devastated.
Various political parties, including Hezbollah, and religious groups have created rifts among the families of the victims of the brutal tragedy.
“People are so distrustful that many won’t even take to the streets to protest, and those that do, do so without much enthusiasm. They are not into it,” Fr Abboud explained.
A sign of things is a planned memorial Mass for the victims. When the Maronite patriarch celebrated it before, it brought out such huge crowds that it had to be celebrated in a square, but this year the service will fill a church at best.
“As the Lebanese go from one crisis to another, we are losing many people” to death and emigration. “Every week, we hear that two or three people have died because they couldn’t get to a hospital, depriving them of the right to treatment. As Caritas, we try to make some contribution, but we cannot pay for everyone’s expenses and needs.”
In addition to health, one of the areas most affected by the crisis is education, including Catholic education, which is one of the basic pillars of society. About 70 per cent of schools are private and get no help from the state.
Catholic schools play a crucial role and teach everyone: Christians, Muslims, Druze, boys or girls, the rich as well as the poor, in big cities and the countryside, in Beirut and other regions, in French as well, introducing the new generation to the world, culture, and critical thinking.
To support its mission and the country’s future, AsiaNews recently launched a campaign (click here for more information), which it is presently renewing before the start of the new school year.
“The situation of schools is dark. Many teachers have left and are out of work, because wages are low and they can’t pay for fuel or transport. The same goes for many students, boys and girls, who dropped out in the last year because they cannot pay.”
Schools have seen their costs soar “by up to 30 times" due to the collapse of the local currency. “In the past, a dollar was worth 1,500 (Lebanese) pounds, while now it is 30,000, with the costs of heating, wages and teaching material rising.”
Lastly, to help Lebanon, “we do not need large sums, but a small contribution from many people,” Fr Abboud said. “The Lebanese people are accustomed to wars and suffering, but today trust between people has been lost and only faith in God seems to have remained.”
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