Christians in Beirut have responded with defiance amid reports that groups seeking to profit from last week’s explosion are trying to persuade them to sell up and leave. An estimated 300,000 families were displaced by the August 4th explosion and Monsignor Toufic Bou-Hadir described how people – including the elderly – are choosing to keep their damaged homes rather than accept offers to buy their properties.
Stressing that the Christian neighbourhoods of Beirut bore the brunt of the explosion, Mgr Toufic Bou-Hadir told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that in recent days, Church leaders have been working with politicians to defeat the land grabbers by passing legislation preventing the sale of houses in the area.
In spite of everything, people want to stay
In his meeting with ACN, which is already providing emergency aid for victims of the explosion, Mgr Bou-Hadir said: “There are people who are trying to profit from this disaster by buying land and houses from the Christians.”
He went on to say: “People want to stay. A number of the older people – and younger ones too – are staying in their homes, even if they are damaged. With all due respect to people who hold other religious beliefs, we cannot sell Christian homes to them. We do not want to change the demographics. The land does not only have material value. It is our dignity; it is where we have our roots.”
Mgr Bou-Hadir, who is director of the Maronite Patriarchal Commission for Youth, congratulated the young people who, he said, worked hard as volunteers to clear the streets of debris caused by the explosion and bring emergency supplies to families.
Within hours of the disaster, ACN provided emergency assistance to supply food to 5,000 families.
Mgr Bou-Hadir stressed that Beirut’s road to recovery will be long and complicated. As of August 18, 2020, an estimated 200 people had been killed and 6,000 injured.
He said: “I want to thank Aid to the Church in Need for helping to provide essential support. To begin with, there was shock; people were just focused on trying to survive. Now people are taking in the full impact of what has happened and they are realizing just how difficult the future will be, but our hope is Christ.”
Finally, a few days ago, nearly 300 young people filled Beirut’s damaged Maronite cathedral for a night vigil where they listened to Archbishop Paul Abdel Sater, Archbishop of Beirut, calling on them not to lose faith in their future in the city, despite the explosion of August 4th.