LEBANON: ACN’s Lenten lunch for persecuted Church

Preparing to distribute food to Syrian refugees, observing Lebanese COVID-19 safety guidance.
Preparing to distribute food to Syrian refugees, observing Lebanese COVID-19 safety guidance.

As Lent begins, a leading Catholic aid organisation has announced plans for a virtual Sunday lunch to raise money for a charitable kitchen in Lebanon that serves more than 1,500 hot meals a day to refugees from neighbouring Syria and others in urgent need.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will host the lunch on 21st March, beginning at 1pm GMT, in aid of St John the Merciful Table (SJMT), in Zahle, which has been feeding the poor and needy since December 2015.

Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle said: “I am so thankful to my friends at ACN (UK) for this wonderful initiative of a virtual Lent lunch in aid of the SJMT in Zahle.

“SJMT provides for people who have escaped persecution and who are totally dependent on us for their one hot meal of the day.”

In his message, which was sent to ACN, he added: “Through this virtual lunch, we are able to come together in an act of communion, sharing in the sufferings of those in our community here in Zahle who are completely reliant on SJMT.”

The event will be streamed on YouTube and will include music, prayer, interviews with people who benefit from SJMT and a Lebanese cooking demonstration.

During the pandemic, the SJMT has continued serving the people of Zahle, acting as a lifeline for those in acute need.

Archbishop Darwish said: “At this time of COVID, when financial pressures are even more pressing and where people are struggling to survive, SJMT is more important than ever.

“We are operating a take-away service observing social distancing and other health restrictions.”

A donation of £1 provides one hot meal while £5 will feed a family of five for one day and £35 will feed a family of five for one week.

Archbishop Darwish said: “So, to you who receive this message, please do join me round the spiritual Table of the Lord here in Zahle and together – through ACN – we can support those who so need our help at this time.

“And even if you cannot come, please continue to pray for our community and, if you can, please also make a Lenten offering for SJMT.

“You can be assured of our gratitude and our prayers for you and your loved ones.”