Sharing hope with Christians in Syria and Lebanon this Christmas
This year Aid to the Church in Need is asking for support for our brothers and sisters who are suffering so deeply in Syria and Lebanon. The support we are pledging to them is very much emergency relief to sustain the Christian population in hope. Certainly, we have already done much in the way of rebuilding churches and providing direct assistance to priests and religious sisters, but we know the people are lacking the most basic of needs.
How can we say to our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Syria, ‘Have a blessed Christmas, love the Lord and all will be well’ when the reality is that many of the people lack the most basic necessities of life?
In Lebanon, hyperinflation has crippled the country. Consumer good prices have quadrupled, brought on by debt, corruption, and political stagnation. Medicine shelves are often empty, food prices have skyrocketed, and fuel is unaffordable to most Lebanese, and the government provides only 1 or 2 hours of electricity each day.
Under these circumstances, Lebanese Christians are suffering immensely: many have cut meat out of their diets
or returned to their ancestral villages to subsist off the land. Hope in the future has also become a scarce resource as the crisis only seems to deepen and horizons narrow. The newspaper L’Orient le Jour reported in January 2022 that now 80% of the population is living in poverty, and 60% of young people are unemployed as businesses have collapsed. Professionals and young people are almost all exploring means to emigrate, either to the Gulf or to the West. Most Lebanese emigrating from the country are Christians. This threatens the demographic balance upholding the country’s stability.
In Syria, it is estimated that 18,000 doctors from that nation are working in Germany, and another 60,000 Christian families have emigrated in recent years. How long would you stay with your family when you know that electricity is limited to 16 hours a day, that those hours are often interrupted, and there are sometimes two or three days without electricity?
This scarcity applies to other basic necessities of life, such as fuel oil or cooking gas, or petrol, everything is limited but prices here are unaffordable for most. Long queues form in front of the bakeries and shops. I was told the story of Michael, a Syrian baker, who had to shut down his oven several times, once because there simply was no flour, the next time due to a shortage of sourdough, then it was no petroleum, and last June he shut down his oven for good and is now unemployed.
So across this Christmas season, of course we will and we should celebrate with our loved ones. It is not the case that we must live our lives in sorrow for the sufferings of others, but please take some time over Christmas to read these stories and watch the videos. And having done so, will you be able to make a special Christmas gift for our fellow Christians in these ancient lands? What amount you give is up to you; for some it is little, for some it is much; for all of us though it should be a meaningful amount that is more than just a dollar amount but something that is really the fruit of prayer and an extension of our faith in our newborn King. Thank you for whatever support you can offer.