National emergency appeal for Lebanon
On 4 August 2020, the Lebanese port of Beirut was destroyed when 2,750,000 kgs of ammonium nitrate exploded, creating one of the largest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, causing at least 200 deaths, 6,500 injuries and making approximately 300,000 people homeless. The most affected communities were in the Christian sector.
Many aid organisations quickly mobilised to provide assistance. ACN provided an initial emergency grant of $400,000 AUD for food and is now focusing its attention on damaged church properties.
In mid-September, the ACN Project Manager for Lebanon, accompanied by a consulting engineer, toured the various buildings belonging to the Church (churches, presbyteries, convents, monasteries and parish centres, some as high as 11 floors). Virtually every window, and all doors that were closed at the time of the blast, were damaged or destroyed.
Following the visit and the meetings with Bishops and religious congregations, ACN announced a commitment of AUD $8 million aid for the reconstruction efforts. The aid mainly relates to the repair and reconstruction of Church-related buildings within the immediate vicinity of the explosion, buildings which have been discerned with the local Church as priorities.
The situation in Lebanon is so worrying because the country is facing multiple other crises. The health crisis is getting worse - Lebanon has an increasing number of Covid-19 cases. And the economic crisis generated by the accumulation of public debt and the collapse of the Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 80% of its value against the US dollar, is putting heavy burdens on the Lebanese people: the prices of consumer goods have been multiplied by more than three. So now more than ever the Lebanese people need our help and our prayers!
Project Updates of a few of the churches that ACN is helping to rebuild:
Saint Saviour Melkite Catholic Church: Built in 1890 Saint Saviour is a loved monument and one of the oldest churches in Beirut. Saint Saviour’s is situated in a symbolic place, on the edge of the Christian and Muslim sections. Fr Nicolas Riachy explains, “We are a sort of doorway to the Christian quarter.” Hence the importance of repairing this church. “We want to give hope for those who still want to remain here. Our mission is to bring light into the darkness through which we are living. There is no Christianity without the Cross. Christ is our example. It is not easy to be Christians, but many of our people are still very much aware that this land is Holy Land and we cannot abandon it”.
The immediate clean-up work has been completed but in both the main entrance and the side aisles there are shattered windows and window frames blown out. The glass-windowed hall on the other side of the square is still unusable. But what worries Father Riachy most of all is the roof of the church. “If the first of the winter rains arrive, they will spoil everything. And there is also a crack in the building which needs to be fixed, or else everything will come down”, he adds. On the left-hand side of the church they have stacked up all the roof tiles they were able to salvage.
The total estimation of the costs for renovation is evaluated to cost $252,000. The most urgent work (phase 1) consists of securing the building and insulating it before the rainy season and is estimated to cost $104,000. ACN has committed to fund phase 1. Can you help rebuild the church of Saviour?
Saint George Maronite Catholic Cathedral: Located in downtown Beirut, St George’s remains one of the most important religious buildings in the city and a significant symbol of the presence of the Maronites in the capital. The Cathedral has witnessed all the political changes and important events that marked Lebanon during the last century.
The Cathedral, completed in 1894, was heavily hit and shelled during the Lebanese civil war and was plundered and defaced. Several works of art that were looted have since been recovered, including the famous painting by Eugène Delacroix depicting Saint George, the patron saint of the cathedral and the city of Beirut. The cathedral was restored after the civil war and was only re-inaugurated by Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir on 24 April 2020. St. George's is the seat of the Maronite Archbishop and thus the spiritual home of all Maronites.
The August explosion shattered the stained-glass windows of the building and tore off the doors. It destroyed the roof as well as a variety of equipment and furniture. The local estimate for restoration is estimated to around AUD 1.2 million. ACN has agreed to fund $750,000 which includes the replacement of windows and doors, roof repairs, painting and electrical work. Can you help rebuild St George's Maronite Cathedral?
As this year draws to a close and as Christmas approaches, please consider making a first, or an additional, offering to ACN's national emergency appeal for Lebanon. Let us ensure Christ is born again in Lebanon this Christmas for our brothers and sisters in faith.
Watch these inspiring video's on various projects that ACN is funding in Lebanon:
Prayer for Lebanon
O Lord, infinitely holy and glorified in your saints, you inspired the holy monk and hermit Saint Charbel to follow Christ and you gave him the strength to detach himself from the world in order to make the monastic virtues triumph in his hermitage.
We implore you to pour down your grace and healing for Lebanon.
God Almighty, who manifested the power of Saint Charbel's intercession by various miracles and favours, grant us through his intercession the ability to be generous in prayer and action, so that together we can rebuild the Churches and homes that were destroyed in the explosion and to heal the broken hearts of those who have lost their loved ones and their livelihoods.
St. Charbel Makhlouf, pray for us.
To see updates on aid to Lebanon please click here.
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