A leading Catholic relief charity is drawing up plans to deliver much needed pastoral aid to Beirut a month after a large explosion decimated large parts of the city. Aid to the Church in Need, which delivered over £220,000 in emergency help within days of the explosion, is concerned that the Christian community may become increasingly diminished following the disaster if adequate support is not provided.
The charity's announcement that it will be visiting the Lebanese capital comes after reports that more than 100 churches, convents, church-run schools and other institutions are in desperate need of repair following the enormous explosion.
Regina Lynch, ACN director of projects, said: “There is a real fear that there could be an exodus of Christians.”
Now, Lynch said, is the time for charities to step up and support the many churches who are suffering in the aftermath and to help the city's Christian population rebuild their lives.
“What happened on 4th August could turn out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, making Christians who are concerned by the declining economic and political situation lose patience and feel the only way to secure a brighter future for their families is to start a new life elsewhere," she explained. “We want to show them that, through our assistance, there is a future for them in a country which for so long has been a beacon of Christianity for the Middle East and beyond.”
An estimated 300,000 families in Beirut were displaced by the blast. According to officials in Lebanon, it would cost an estimated £11.2 billion to fix all the damage caused by the incident.
Lynch said that despite the devastation, there is hope: "The messages we have received from those we are helping in Beirut make clear their gratitude to all who responded – the message was clear: those suffering are not alone," she said.
Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for Lebanon to take place on Friday 4th September. “One month after the tragedy that struck the city of Beirut, my thoughts turn once again to Lebanon and its people, so sorely tried,” the Pope said during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, as he called a Lebanese student priest to stand next to him holding the country's flag.
"Be poor together with your poor and suffering people," he told the country's religious leaders.
"Be the first to give an example of poverty and humility. Help your faithful and your people to rise up and be protagonists of a new rebirth.”