News 29 Apr 2024

ACN approves massive solar panel package to help Church in Lebanon and Syria face electricity crisis

As the world marks the 30th anniversary of World Sun Day on May 3rd, emphasizing the significance of renewable energy resources, Aid to the Church in Need highlights the transformative impact of solar panels in the lives of parishes, religious orders, and institutions in countries facing dramatic increases in electricity costs.

The severe financial crisis in Lebanon and Syria over recent years has significantly strained the lives of all citizens in various ways. Commodities once taken for granted, like electricity, have become prohibitively expensive. In Syria, for instance, electricity prices have soared by 500 percent.

In many parts of Lebanon, state-provided electricity is only available for about four hours a day, forcing people to rely on costly fuel-powered generators. The situation in Syria is even grimmer, with grid electricity available for zero to three hours a day depending on the region. Here, often mafia-run companies operate the only alternative—generators. In areas like Damascus and Homs, generators are scarce, leaving residents entirely dependent on the limited state electricity supply.

This situation profoundly affects Church activities. Parishes and communities struggle to provide services, and the limited ability for food storage and heating reflects in the rising costs of hosting retreats and religious gatherings. The shortage of electricity also hampers the Church’s social activities, such as in orphanages, nursing homes, schools, and kindergartens, where operations are compromised in the darkness, and food poisoning becomes rampant due to inadequate refrigeration.

This is why Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity, has funded a substantial initiative to install solar panels for Church institutions. Over recent years, the organization has approved more than 60 projects in both Syria and Lebanon, valued at over 1.7 million dollars. These projects have restored light and hope to the beneficiaries, including 24 religious congregations and 37 parishes across 16 dioceses, as well as 11 convents, seven seminaries and novitiates, and 22 schools.

By transitioning from state-produced electricity and carbon-fuel-based generators to solar power, these Church facilities also set an example of sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives, aligning with the Holy See’s concerns about caring for our common home.

“In Lebanon, for instance, the Parish of St. Tekla in the Kartaboun neighborhood of Jbeil used to spend 60 dollars monthly on electricity. Since installing solar panels, the monthly bill has dropped to just three dollars, freeing up funds for the parish’s pastoral mission,” Father Christian Gerges told ACN.

The sisters of the Congregation of the Holy Family have also noted significant changes. “The state provides one or two hours of electricity a day, but it's very expensive. We used to have a cold room and three fridges, but now we only have one. We used to pay a subscription for the generator, costing us 30 dollars, plus expenses of between 300 and 400 dollars. Now, with the solar panels, it's down to 6 dollars, and for the autumn months, it was nothing at all, so we've saved a lot,” says Sister Yaout.

The sisters, who work primarily with intellectually disabled individuals, can now reduce charges for groups staying at the convent’s guesthouse, demonstrating how the benefits of the solar panel projects extend like rays of light to the broader Christian community.

Another testimony comes from Zgharta, where the Antonine congregation runs Mar Antonios School. During a recent visit, a student told ACN, “These new solar panels are really going to change our daily lives. They will enable us to understand our lessons better. It's like you're giving us the tools to build our future, and we're really grateful.”

A teacher added, “The situation is complicated, and we are suffering from the crisis, but a big thank you to ACN for everything you have done. The presence of solar panels has changed many things, especially in teaching. We now have electricity for the digital blackboards, and we can teach under better conditions.”

ACN will continue supporting solar panel projects to help the Church sustain its mission in some of the world’s neediest regions by providing viable and sustainable energy solutions.

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