In the wake of last week’s massive explosion which devastated Beirut, killing over 150 people, injuring 5,000, and making 300,000 residents homeless, the Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, has written to all its ministers encouraging them, and their congregations, to stand with the people of Lebanon, and Beirut in particular.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Bruce said, “Refugees in overwhelming numbers, political upheaval, financial collapse, growing poverty and Covid-19 have all left Lebanon reeling from one crisis to another, but last Tuesday’s explosion led Lebanese President, Michael Aoun, to declare that there were ‘no words to describe the catastrophe that hit Beirut…’
“Even residents of Beirut, who had lived through Lebanon’s long civil war, said that the explosion was like nothing they had ever experienced before. With the explosion being attributed to corruption and negligence, it is not just homes that are devastated, but hearts, in such a way that hope is now hanging by a thread. In writing to our congregations across Ireland, I hope that we can stand in prayer with our partners and the people of Beirut, while giving practical support to the relief effort,” he said.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has two longstanding partnerships in Lebanon – The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), which has around 12,000 members in 30 congregations across both jurisdictions, and the Near East School of Theology (NEST), founded in 1932. More recently, PCI have been relating to SAT-7, which has been broadcasting Christian TV programmes from their production studios in Beirut to the Middle East and North Africa since 1996, as well as working with the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).
Rev Uel Marrs, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Global Mission, who was last in Lebanon two years ago, said, “While we are giving much thought to launching a special appeal towards the end of this year aimed at tackling the impact of Covid-19 on the world’s poorest communities, PCI’s Mission Department is ready to channel any donations to the emergency initiatives being undertaken by our partners in Lebanon. Details of how to do that can be found on the PCI website.”
Mr Marrs continued, “Towards the end of last week, we were able to contact our partners in Beirut. We understand that NEST’s main building and SAT-7’s offices were affected by the explosion, with the School of Theology extensively damaged. All eight floors above ground and two basements were badly damaged. Its president, Dr George Sabra, said that they had never been hit so badly before. We also heard that The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon’s development wing is seeking to provide emergency food aid and shelter for the homeless.”
NESSL’s General Secretary, Rev Joseph Kassab, had said in a communication, “may the Almighty bring peace to our wounded humanity and city. It is a time where the Church has to step into the pain and suffering of innocent people.” While SAT-7 executive director, Maroun Bou Rached, said that they were focusing on what they could produce and broadcast “to help and encourage people and to look to God. We need a miracle to continue in this small country. Please pray for calm for everyone in Lebanon.”
Dr Bruce concluded by saying, “These and others with whom PCI has related in Lebanon over many years, are not only expressing their shock and great need, but also the feeling of being overwhelmed by expressions of genuine concern and solidarity from around the world.
“With their lives brutally disrupted and hope hanging by a thread, despite all the challenges we face here on the island of Ireland, I want to encourage our congregations to see that our prayerful, practical support for the people of Lebanon is paramount in the coming days.”
Members of the Church of Ireland are also being asked to contribute to this important cause through the Bishop’s Appeal. For details for how you can donate, click here.