A leading Catholic charity is preparing a second wave of help for Beirut amid growing fears that last month’s explosion could spark an exodus of Christians from Lebanon.
With reports circulating that more than 100 churches, convents, Church-run schools and other institutes are in need of repairs following the blast on 4th August, a fact-finding and project-assessment team from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is due to visit the Lebanese capital ahead of drawing up plans to provide pastoral support before the onset of winter.
The aid would come on top of the €250,000 (£220,750) emergency help provided by the charity within days of the explosion – food packages and other urgent items for nearly 6,000 families worst affected by the catastrophe.
Regina Lynch, ACN Director of Projects, said: “There is a real fear that there could be an exodus of Christians.”
Underlining that the Christian quarter of Beirut had borne the brunt of the blast, Ms Lynch said the Christian community needed reassurance of a plan to repair their structures to enable the faithful to continue what she called their “vital role as bridge builders” reaching out to both Sunni and Shi‘a Muslims.
She stressed the need to support many of the damaged convents and other religious institutes which operate schools, hospitals, clinics and other critical welfare support across Beirut, Lebanon and beyond.
Ms Lynch said: “What happened on 4th August could turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, making Christians who are concerned by the declining economic and political situation lose patience and feel the only way to secure a brighter future for their families is to start a new life elsewhere.
“We want to show them that, through our assistance, there is a future for them in a country which for so long has been a beacon of Christianity for the Middle East and beyond.”
ACN is coordinating its aid for Beirut with other Catholic organisations, each taking responsibility for designated areas – repair of homes, education, medical care and infrastructure.
As many as 300,000 families in Beirut were displaced by the blast and Ms Lynch emphasised the need for ongoing emergency assistance, saying it would take time before their homes were repaired.
Thanking ACN benefactors for their support, she said: “We were truly overwhelmed by the sympathy and generosity of the many, many people who responded so compassionately in support of those suffering in Beirut.
“The messages we have received from those we are helping in Beirut make clear their gratitude to all who responded – the message was clear: those suffering are not alone.”
Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon tomorrow (Friday). Ms Lynch urged people to take part.