Pope, Maronite patriarch plead for help in Lebanon

A La Croix International article published on August 5th reports that Pope Francis has called for prayers and for the international community to help Lebanon after a massive explosion in Beirut killed at least 100, injured very many more and caused serious destruction to capital.

“Let us pray for the victims and their family members, and let us pray for Lebanon so that with the effort of everyone in society — political and religious — it may face this tragic and painful moment and, with the help of the international community, overcome the serious crisis it is experiencing,” Francis said Aug. 5 at the end of his general audience.

Damaged buildings are seen after the explosions at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon, Aug. 5, 2020. The explosions in Lebanese capital Beirut have caused at least 100 deaths and left over 4,000 injured, with many more missing, Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

The Tuesday explosion, caused by tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in the Beirut port, damaged half the city, killed at least 100 and wounded 4,000 others.  Beirut’s governor Marwan Abboud says at least 300,000 people have lost their homes and become homeless. The explosion was the equivalent of a magnitude 3.3 earthquake.

The Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch has called on the “States of the world” to help as Lebanon is already “in a situation of economic and financial bankruptcy which renders it unable to face this catastrophe”. Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, described Beirut as a “devastated city”, “wounded” and reduced to “a scenario of war without war”.

The explosion comes amid Lebanon’s worst financial crisis in which the Lebanese pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value in the past eight months.  The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the economic problems.  About 45 percent of Lebanon’s population now lives below the poverty line. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs or seen salaries slashed. Lebanon is also mired in a political crisis.

The country has since late 2019 witnessed mass protests against the government seen as corrupt. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Beirut to protest the economic hardship, leading to the resignation of prime minister Saad Hariri in October and the installation of the Hezbollah-backed government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab in December.

This change has only alienated Lebanon from countries in the region and the West as Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization in the United States, Europe and other countries. They are hesitant to help Lebanon out of it’s economic crisis because they refuse to offer any form of help to a government controlled by Hezbollah.

Cardinal Rai has now appealed for immediate help regardless of any political and geopolitical consideration “because what happened goes beyond politics and goes beyond conflicts”.

The European Union is already rounding up emergency workers and equipment to help Beirut and find people trapped under the rubble. About 23 tons of relief aid will be sent to the Lebanese capital from the World Health Organisation warehouse in Dubai.  France is also sending a special unit of people with chemical expertise to help in damaged industrial sites.

With permission from La Croix International