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Christians in Lebanon place their hopes in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

21 January 2022

Country is burdened by daily consequences of political economic crisis, says WCC

Alamy

Protest about the country’s failing economy in Chouaifet, Lebanon, on Thursday of last week

Protest about the country’s failing economy in Chouaifet, Lebanon, on Thursday of last week

THE Lebanese are hoping that in 2022 there will be a change in the country’s fortunes after several years of worsening economic, social, and political chaos. So far, however, there are no signs of the turnaround that the country is longing for.

Lebanese Christians are counting on support in the form of prayers from the worldwide Church in the current Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Significantly, the Beirut-based Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) has been the convener of this year’s Week of Prayer.

Opening the prayers on Monday, the Cilician Patriarch of the Armenian Catholics, Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian, told a congregation in the Cathedral of St Elias and St Gregory the Illuminator, in Beirut, that “while we desire unity, we do not fully understand its true meaning. We are scattered over the earth, and we have fallen into the turmoil of individual and collective selfishness.” Christ “was not born and crucified for a certain group, for an elite, but for all nations for the salvation of all humanity”.

Looking specifically at Lebanon and its ongoing challenges, the WCC’s acting deputy general secretary and director of its Faith and Order Commission, the Revd Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, pointed out that churches and the people of Lebanon had been “burdened by the daily consequences of a persistent political economic crisis, and faced the tragedy of the August 2020 explosion in Beirut, which caused hundreds of deaths and left hundreds of thousands injured or homeless”.

None the less, “Christians from different churches in Lebanon and neighbouring countries have found the spiritual force to come together and prepare the resources” for the Week of Prayer.

“They invited us to turn to the star in the East and worship together the God incarnate,” Dr Mateus continued. “For this precious spiritual gift, we are thankful to God and to them.”

The MECC said that, in preparing resources for the week, Christians in the region were “conscious that the world shares many of the travails and difficulties that they experience, and yearns for a light to lead the way to the Saviour who can overcome darkness. The Covid-19 global pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis, and the failure of political, economic, and social structure to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, have underlined the need for a light to shine in the darkness.”

As yet, there is no indication of what might remove the darkening shadow hanging over Lebanon; the cabinet is so divided that it has failed even to meet since its appointment last September. The economy, meanwhile, is in a state of collapse. The Rector of All Saints’, Beirut, the Ven. Imad Zoorob, who is also Archdeacon of Lebanon and Syria, said on Tuesday that the continuing decline of the Lebanese pound against the dollar was putting basic foods and medicine beyond the reach of a rising number of people.

Asked whether the Lebanese expected to see an improvement in the months ahead, Archdeacon Zoorob replied: “Improvement? If cabinet ministers are not meeting, how can things improve?”

Politics continues to be dominated by the same rival political or sectarian groups that have jostled for power for decades, despite calls for reform and popular protests against their ineptitude and corruption. The prominent part in the country’s government played by the Iran-supported Hizbollah organisation is a source of contention, and has soured relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, which have traditionally helped to prop up the Lebanese economy.

Lebanese Christians, Archdeacon Zoorob continued, “are still holding on to their faith, hoping that God will deliver them from this madness and from this living hell. Many are sending their young children away just to keep them out of this mess so that they may have a more decent life than ours.

“What can you expect from a nation that is facing annihilation on every level, not least the social and humanitarian ones?”

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