As bishops in New York and Los Angeles serving Lebanese Maronite Catholic communities across the United States, we were heartbroken by this week’s massive explosions in Beirut, which left more than 150 people dead and thousands maimed.
The physical destruction wrought by the ammonium-nitrate blast has also disfigured a city long admired as one of the region’s most beautiful — the Paris of the Middle East, as it used to be called. Three-hundred thousand are now homeless in the Lebanese capital.
This tragedy couldn’t have come at a worse moment for Lebanon. The country has been suffering from a prolonged debt crisis, teetering at the edge of bankruptcy. It is riven by sectarian fault lines and situated in a wider region still radiating terrorism and disorder.
The weight of these malign forces, combined with the recent devastation, is enough to make one think Beirut and Lebanon are hopeless.
Except we disagree. In fact, we have faith that the future can be bright, provided Lebanon taps into its greatest asset — its people, particularly the young — and provided her friends lend a helping hand in this moment of trial.
It took fewer than 24 hours after the explosion for bands of Lebanese youth to enter the streets with shovels, brooms, dustpans and lots of love. They went door to door, assisting Muslim and Christian alike. It’s something of a cliché, but it holds true in the Lebanese case: The nation’s youth are a sight for sore eyes.
The youth were checking on the elderly, helping first responders bandage the wounded, serving Lebanese sandwiches to workers — demonstrating that the Lebanon envisioned by the great leaders of the past is still the Lebanon of today, even though she is wounded (once again).
A hundred years ago, it was the Maronite patriarch who led Islamic and Christian leaders to create modern Lebanon, a country that would be a welcoming refuge for all. The National Pact of 1943 sealed her independence and, by creating a delicate multi-sectarian power-sharing structure, ensured that Lebanon would be a shared dream of the different communities.
The Lebanese Civil War tested that structure brutally. And yet in the 1980s, at the height of the war, Pope Saint John Paul II stated that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message for East and West.”
This is the Lebanon we have known. This is the Lebanon worth fighting for. This is the Lebanon worthy of her youth.
So how can we Americans react? From deep within the tradition of the Catholic Church, we respond: with prayer, with fasting, with almsgiving. And we add one more: advocacy.
When we pray for Lebanon and her people, we can also ask the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, patroness of the country, as well as Saint Sharbel, her native son and legendary mystic, to help preserve the people of this great land. We also invite our non-Christian brothers and sisters to join their supplications to ours.
Lebanese Christians are used to fasting and still have the practice to fast every Friday. We can join them in solidarity.
We can give alms to Catholic and other charitable efforts. In Lebanon today, with its crisis-ridden, do-nothing government, it is often the Catholic Church that comes to the rescue. We suggest Caritas Lebanon and Saint Vincent de Paul Societies, which operate all across Lebanon. Visit our website to learn more at: http://www.stmaron.org/how-you-can-help.
And lastly, we can advocate. We can call upon our members of Congress and President Trump to provide much-needed humanitarian aid, as well to protect her from regional forces that would seek to use this moment to further undermine her independence.
We and several other religious leaders have also advocated for a special envoy to Lebanon to help support the work of the US ambassador to the country, Dorothy Shea. A strong and neutral Lebanon, well-supported by friends and allies, can regain her former glory as a jewel of the Middle East.
If they know we stand with them, perhaps those faithful, hopeful and loving young people cleaning the streets of Beirut won’t feel so alone.
Most Rev. Gregory John Mansour is bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn. Most Rev. A. Elias Zaidan is bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.
Source: New York Post
The post You can help save Lebanon — through charity and prayer appeared first on -.