ACN Project of the Week – Lebanon
Helping the poor seeking refuge in Zahleh
By ACN International Projects Department, adapted by ACN Canada
Published on the web March 4th, 2020
St John the Merciful was a 6th-7th century saint, noted for his generosity to the poor and suffering. Wherever he saw a need, he strove with all his resources to help. By the time he became patriarch of Alexandria he was feeding some 7,900 poor people every day. He died in 619 and is honoured today as a saint both by Catholic and by Orthodox Christians.
Saint John the Merciful Table is a program named after him and is run by the Melkite Catholic Church in the Lebanese town of Zahleh, close to the Syrian border. The centre has been up and running since December 2015. It is a place of welcome for all who cannot afford a hot meal every day – serving many Syrian refugees and a growing number of Lebanese citizens as well.
Every day, at least 1,000 people are given a hot meal here. About 800 or so people come to the centre themselves for nourishment, while another 200 who are in some way disabled, frail, elderly or sick, receive home visits from the centre’s volunteers bringing with them a hot meal and words of spiritual comfort and human warmth.
Nourishing both body and soul
The program was conceived with the idea of providing both food for the body and for the soul. An offering of spiritual and psychological support to those in need. This project represents an important contribution to a great effort to prevent the emigration of Christians from the region. Otherwise, many of these people will likely be forced to try and move abroad in order to feed themselves and their families.