LEBANON: Church scrambling to help people living ‘in a state of war’

Archeparch Charbel Abdallah of Tyre.
Archeparch Charbel Abdallah of Tyre.

Renewed prayers for an end to the conflict in the Middle East are urgently needed – according to Church leaders bringing vital aid to people in southern Lebanon caught in the crossfire between the Israeli army and militant groups.

Those living near the Israeli border are suffering because of daily rocket fire while living in extreme poverty as a result of the financial crisis that started in 2019, according to information gathered by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Maronite Catholic Archeparch Charbel Abdallah of Tyre – one of the oldest archdioceses in the world – told ACN that, despite finding themselves “in a state of war”, most of those who had fled to Beirut or further north have been forced to return home because of a lack of funds and shortage of accommodation in other parts of the country.

Archeparch Abdallah said that two parishes – Alma el Chaeb and Quzah – are “still nearly empty because they lie entirely in the areas of the air strikes” and “a large proportion of the houses there have been completely destroyed”.

He added that those living in the other 10 parishes of his archeparchy can no longer bring in their harvest because their fields are now located in a conflict zone.

He highlighted that fires caused by phosphorus bombs have destroyed cultivated fields and fruit trees, depriving locals of their only source of income.

The archeparch explained: “In the face of these many needs the state is completely absent.

“The people are becoming poorer and poorer and can no longer live dignified lives.”

He added: “Because of extreme inflation, the insurance cover of the social security fund for hospital stays, visits to the doctor or medicine are hardly present.”

Marielle Boutros, ACN project coordinator in Lebanon said that she was deeply impressed by the courage and faithfulness of the charity’s project partners “in the face of the constant danger”.

Ms Boutros added: “None of them – whether bishops, priests, religious brothers or nuns – have left the region…

“They feel responsible for staying with the people in their need and offering them support and comfort.”

She stressed that even the priests of the Alma el Chaeb and Quzah parishes – who regularly find themselves in the middle of air strikes – have remained in place to support the few remaining believers.

Archeparch Abdallah himself visits the parishes affected by the war every Sunday and occasionally during the week to meet the faithful and to “see what needs they have and to help them with our modest means”.

 The archeparch said that he has found that these visits “encourage the people enormously – they sense that they have not been left in the lurch by the Church”.

He explained that the local Church – which is one of the poorest in the country – is dependent on outside support to be able to help the people, adding that he is very grateful for ACN’s longstanding help.

He said: “Every month, ACN provides food parcels to thousands of needy families and thereby gives vital support.

“Beyond this, hundreds of sick people receive monthly help to buy medicine.

“The charity has also equipped a health centre in one of our big parishes to support the local families.”

The archeparch concluded: “Many thanks to all the benefactors for their generosity.

“Please pray for us, pray that this war in the Middle East ends as quickly as possible.”


With thanks to Sina Hartert