NEARLY a year since the enormous explosion at Beirut port, which killed more than 200 people and devastated large areas of the city (News, 7 August 2020), the Lebanese are suffering physically and mentally from the effects of severe economic collapse, reports the Rector of All Saints’, Beirut, the Ven. Imad Zoorob, who is also the Archdeacon of Lebanon and Syria. Since the explosion, politicians have been unable to form a government, leaving the country adrift with little prospect of economic recovery.
The effects of Covid-19 have added to the difficulties: many thousands of Lebanese are out of work (News, 5 February). A shortage of foreign currency means that the country is struggling to import basic goods, including petrol. Speaking on Tuesday, Archdeacon Zoorob said that he started queuing for petrol at 10.30 the previous night, and reached the pumps at 2 a.m. He was allowed to buy only 20 litres. “I need the car to get to the church, and buy things for the house. This is our life; but it’s not really a life. We thought the port blast was the worst it could get. But it wasn’t.”
Every day, Archdeacon Zoorob said, “we’re suffering from something. Now, for example, if you want medicines, you can’t find them. You can’t find a pharmacy that’s open, you can’t find even medicine for a headache.”
He prefers to speak about the suffering of the whole Lebanese community rather than of the Christians. An increasing number are finding it almost impossible to survive with the Lebanese pound in freefall. A civil servant receives a salary of 660,000 Lebanese pounds, a total set when $1 was worth 1500 pounds. Today, to buy an item on sale at $1 (all goods are labelled in dollars) one has to produce nearly 20,000 Lebanese pounds.
The government is struggling to provide basic services. “We receive electricity two hours a day, and virtually have no water. So we pay twice: once to the government, and then for generator power and water from a water seller. At this very moment, we have no power at all, because the generator overheats and has to cool down for six hours each day.”
Archdeacon Zoorob is grateful for the financial help that he receives from the diocese in Jerusalem, the Church in Jordan, and American donors. The money “is distributed among the needy in the community. We’re helping our congregation on a monthly basis.”
Does Archdeacon Zoorob see any end to the crisis? “In the near future, no, of course not. It’s all politics, and I’m not really into that. But we need reliable politicians. In the mean time, it’s physical and mental agony.”