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Lebanon

 

ACN’s Project of the Week – Lebanon – To help more than the body

11.04.2018 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Aid to refugees, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Emergency Aid, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Lebanon, Middle East, Refugees, Syria

ACN’s Project of the Week – Lebanon

To help more than the body

For many people in Lebanon one hot meal a day is by no means something to be taken for granted. In the town of Zaleh the poverty is particularly acute. The town is not far from the Syrian border, and as a result many refugees have ended up here, having left all their possessions behind in Syria. And even among the local Lebanese population there are many needy people, especially among the elderly and the children whom nobody seems to be caring for.

 

This was the reason why the Melkite Greek Catholic Church decided to set up the St. John the Merciful Table in 2015 to help these people, among other things by providing a regular hot meal, or “food table”. It is named after the seventh century Saint John the Merciful – and not by chance, since St. John was renowned for his exceptional love for the poor. Wherever he saw need, he worked with all his energies and all his resources to alleviate it. When he finally became Patriarch of Alexandria he was feeding some 7,900 poor people on a daily basis. He died around the year 619 and is revered as a saint both by Catholics and by Orthodox Christians.

Zahle, Lebanon, Syrian refugees: “All of us feel the love of Jesus, our Saviour in this way. It is a sign of his love for us all, one that helps to heal every wound”, says one of the women helpers.

Today the outreach ministry provides around a thousand people with a hot meal each day, an increase of 400 people compared to the previous year. Many Syrian refugees are also involved, helping in the kitchens, so that they can also have the opportunity to earn a living. There is a dietary assistant from a Catholic hospital in the town who helps to ensure that the food is nutritionally well-balanced and healthy.

 

But of course, it is not merely about food for the body but also about communicating the love of God and human warmth and affection to those in need. Many are quite alone. The St. John the Merciful table has become a place for them to gather, not only to eat, but also to talk with other people, share their warmth and a smile and a sympathetic ear to listen to their concerns. Prayers are said before every meal and a hymn is sung, underlining the fact that this is above all about the care of souls. It is important for everyone to experience this spiritual dimension. “All of us feel the love of Jesus, our Saviour in this way. It is a sign of his love for us all, one that helps to heal every wound”, says one of the women helpers.

For the elderly and sick, who cannot get out of their homes, the food is brought to them by volunteers.


Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting this project ever since it began. This year we will be giving 1,178,000 for the coming year.

 

If you want to give for this project or one similar,
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Thank you!

 

St. John the Merciful Table: more than food, but a place where spiritual life can also be feed.                                                                                                                                                                


 

ACN’s Project of the Week: Formation of three priests in Lebanon

21.02.2018 in ACN PROJECTS, FORMATION, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Lebanon, Middle East, SEMINARIANS

Lebanon

Formation of three priests from the archdiocese of Baalbek

 

Not so long ago Lebanon was the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority. In recent years this has changed, however, with increasing numbers of Christians leaving the country. Already during the terrible civil war in the country between 1975 and 1990, around 700,000 Christians left the country, and the exodus is continuing today. Now Christians make up only around 34% of the total population, and among younger people aged 25 or younger only a quarter are Christians.

 

In the Maronite archdiocese of Baalbek, in the northeast of the country, the situation is still more critical, for here Christians account for barely 5% of the population. This is a poor region, close to the border with Syria, where the situation is insecure and people are afraid. Those who can do so leave the country and seek a new life elsewhere, in Canada or Australia, for example. Others move away to the capital, Beirut. Only a strong Church that can provide spiritual, pastoral, social and economic support for its faithful can stem the tide of this mass exodus. Clearly, well-trained, young priests play a key role here.

Lebanon, Baalbek-Mar: Formation of 3 seminarians studying at University of Holy Ghost Kasslik – Khalil Berqachi, Chadi Khoury, Marc Rahme

At present there are three young men from the Maronite archdiocese of Baalbek who are training for the priesthood. Archbishop Hanna Rahme has a particular concern for these young men, but lacks the necessary resources. He has turned to Aid to the Church in Need for help, so that they can be given a solid formation and be able to stand by their people as true shepherds. He writes: “I am sure you will be open to this request, especially since the Lord has already blessed us with many good priestly vocations, men who are already working with great apostolic zeal in our diocese. Permit me to say that I am counting on your goodwill and on the missionary kindness of your benefactors.”

We have no doubt that our generous benefactors will rally to the support of these future priests, and so we have already promised the Archbishop 10 500 dollars.

Thank you for your donation !


 

ACN Project of the Week: A little warmth for Lebanese Sisters

21.12.2017 in ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Lebanon, Middle East, Pastoral care, Poverty, Project of the Week, Sisters, Urgent need

Lebanon

A heating system for a convent housing sick and elderly sisters

 

A convent in Jeita is home for some 20 or so elderly religious Sisters, some of whom are frail and or ill. It has been designated, by the congregation of the Salvatorian Sisters of Saint Basil of Our Lady of the Annunciation, as a sheltered accommodation for nuns who require special assistance.

 

Lying as it does in a quiet valley, the convent is also ideal as a guesthouse for groups and individuals wishing to spend a few days in a quiet retreat in their personal search for God. “We do not want to make a financial profit in any way, but simply to offer a service to Our Lord and to the Church by taking in these faithful,” explains Sister Mona Wazen the general superior of this Melkite Greek Catholic congregation.

 

The convent was established in 1992, following an attack on the motherhouse of the congregation during the Civil War (1975 to 1990) which at that time, the Sisters were forced to flee. Before the Civil War, in fact, they had no fewer than 17 convents in Lebanon. But the war cost them dearly and now today they have only three convents and a total of around 70 Sisters. Between them, five schools and a number of other educational centers are managed.

 

As already mentioned, there are 20 elderly and infirm Sisters living in the convent in Jeita today. However, there is no heating in the house and in winter it can get extremely cold. This is not only hard to endure for these already frail sisters but also scarcely inviting for any guests who may wish to stay. The congregation has decided to install a central heating system. However, the cost is too high for them alone and so they have turned to ACN for help.

 

We are planning to contribute $35,040, so that these frail and elderly Sisters and their guests will not have to suffer the additional burden of facing the freezing cold in their very home.

 

If you would like to contribute to supporting a similar project funded by ACN, please click to donate!


 

ACN Project of the Week – A Pastoral Centre in Lebanon

15.06.2016 in ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, CONSTRUCTION, Lebanon

Lebanon

A pastoral centre in Maalaka

 

More and more Christians are leaving the Middle East. It is an exodus that no longer affects Syria and Iraq alone anymore, but also touches Lebanon. This country, which in the quite recent past was the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority, now has a steady dwindling Christian minority.

 

Saint André's parish in Maalaka

Saint André’s parish in Maalaka

This wave of emigration by Christians from the Middle East is repeatedly described as a “tsunami.” Patriarch Gregorios III, the head of the Melkite Catholic Church in Lebanon itself, wrote an open letter to young people last August, in which he said: “The general wave of emigration among young people, especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Iraq, breaks my heart, wounds me deeply and is like a death blow to me. What future does the Church have in the face of such a tsunami of emigration? What will become of our homeland? What will happen to our parishes and Church establishments?”

 

In Lebanon at least, the Church is attempting to hold back this tsunami by building new churches and parish centres. For it is evident that wherever people feel sufficiently rooted in their parish communities they are less likely to leave and more likely to stay, and why working with children and young people is paramount.

 

In Maalaka, around 7 km from the town of Zahleh, and not far from the Lebanese/Syrian frontier, the Melkite Catholic faithful have built a new church, dedicated to St Andrew. They spent 10 years fundraising and making great sacrifices to do so.

 

Currently there are around 650 Lebanese families here with on average 2 to 3 children in each. Then there are 60 families who have fled in recent years from Syria to seek refuges on Lebanese soil. Overall, there are approximately 3,200 people living in the parish – well over half of whom are children and young people.

 

LEBANON / ZAHLEH-MLC 15/00020 Construction of parish center in favour of St Andre parish, Maalaka

 

Now, they are planning to build a pastoral centre right here, beneath the church, with the hope of breathing new life into the community.  They hope it will provide a place where the people will gather together as a community, whether in a spirit of celebration or in mourning.

Every kind of ceremony and festivity will be held here –weddings, baptisms and funeral; gatherings, catechesis, youth movements, educational courses and social programs. The centre will also be crucial in its work of caring for the children of Syrian refugees and helping them become more fully integrated within Lebanese society.

 

ACN has promised help of $72,500 CAD for the creation of this pastoral centre.  Thank you for helping us support Christians who want to stay home, in the Middle-East.

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Syria/Russia Syria trip of Catholic and Orthodox delegation

14.04.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Feature Story, Interreligious Dialogue, Lebanon, Orthodox Church, Russia, Syria

Syria 08 April 2016
The street in Al-Qaryatayn few days after liberated from ISIS.

Syria/Russia

Syria trip of Catholic and Orthodox delegation – a “tangible reaction to the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow”

ACN Middle East specialist, Father Halemba in front of St Elian Church (Syriac Orthodox) in Ql-Qaryateyn

ACN Middle East specialist, Father Halemba in front of St Elian Church (Syriac Orthodox) in Ql-Qaryateyn

 

Last week, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation, Archpriest Stefan (Igumnov), secretary for inter-Christian dialogue of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Father Dr. Andrzej Halemba, Middle East expert for Aid to the Church in Need, as well as Peter Humeniuk, Russia expert for Aid to the Church in Need, met there with representatives of the various Christian denominations to show “a sign of solidarity” and “to explore the possibilities for joint relief efforts,” Mr. Humeniuk said. He called the joint trip of an Orthodox and Catholic delegation to Lebanon and Syria a “tangible reaction” to the common declaration of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.

 

When asked about what had prompted the trip, Mr. Humeniuk said, “In their declaration both Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill were united in denouncing the persecution of Christians and the dramatic situation of the Christians in the Middle East. This was one of the reasons for their historic meeting this past February. The Catholic and the Russian Orthodox church in Russia have acted on the message of their leaders by taking steps to respond together to the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.” He also said the reaction to the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow had been “very positive” in the Middle East and had “drawn a great deal of attention.”

 

“Plans are already being made for the future”

In the Middle East, the meeting of the two church leaders was “understood as being a strong signal that the Christian denominations needed to stand united to face the situation of suffering, war and persecution.” During the trip it was decided that concrete areas of cooperation between the various Christian churches in the Middle East would be the documentation of the holy sites in Syria that were destroyed during the war, in order to record the damage, as well as the collection of testimonies of the martyrdom of Syrian Christians to preserve them for posterity. A joint campaign on behalf of children was also considered. Mr. Humeniuk described the trip of the Catholic and Orthodox delegation as a first step that would be “followed by others.”

 

Mr. Humeniuk emphasized: “During the trip, time and again we were told that what is most important for many Christians in the Middle East is having their bishops stay with them and that they are more interested in the restoration of the destroyed church buildings, where parish life took place, than in the rebuilding of their own homes. The flock wants to gather around its shepherd. That impressed me deeply. It is clear that so many resources are necessary to rebuild the buildings that it will be impossible to procure them at short notice. However, plans are already being made for the future.”

 

Russia Syria 1

 

Aid to the Church in Need organized this trip because the international Catholic pastoral charity is very active in the Middle East and has also been working for 25 years to establish a dialogue between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches.

 

Besides Beirut and Damascus, the delegation visited the Bekaa Valley at the border between Syria and Lebanon where a large number of Syrian refugees have found shelter. Several refugee families in Zahlé described their fate to the delegation. Maronite Patriarch Béchara Rai and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia were among the church representatives with whom the delegation met in Lebanon. In Syria, since both patriarchs were currently travelling, the delegation met with one representative each of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. They further met Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and All the East, the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, as well as numerous other bishops.

 


 

 

 

Project of the week: Feeding Iraqi refugees

03.02.2016 in ACN Canada, ACN PROJECTS, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to refugees, Emergency Aid, Iraq, Journey with ACN, Lebanon, Projets pastorale, Refugees, SUBSISTENCE, Syria, Voyager avec l’AED

Lebanon

Help to feed Iraqi refugees 

Right now, Lebanon is facing huge challenges . This small country of just 4.5 million has had to find space for no fewer than 1.1 million refugees. In fact, this number includes only those refugees officially registered with international agencies. The real figure is almost certainly much higher than this.

Every day more refugees are arriving in Lebanon, from Syria and Iraq. More often than not, their dreams of a better life here are quickly devastated for while they have at least saved their lives, they very soon find themselves confronted with immense difficulties with simply finding ways to live and  to survive.  They face astronomical rents for example, even for the smallest and most miserable living accommodations. There is no work. Medical treatment is expensive and indeed virtually unaffordable for most refugees. If refugees attempt to move elsewhere within Lebanon, they can be arrested and imprisoned as illegal immigrants. Many have had false expectations of what awaited them abroad.

Lebanon: exemple of pastoral projects to the refugees children of Syria and Iraq.

Lebanon: An example of pastoral projects to the refugees children of Syria and Iraq.

In the capital city of Beirut, the Chaldean Catholic eparchy is striving to take care of  Iraqi families, most of who have fled here from Mosul and the Plain of Niniveh from the advancing ISIS fighters. The eparchy provides these people with basic necessities, helps them look for work, and also ministers to them pastorally.

For example,  children can prepare for their First Holy Communion and there are other catechetical classes for children and young people, plus pastoral and social services for women and many other services besides. Last year ACN gave a total of 43,500 CAD towards the cost of this pastoral and human support for the Iraqi refugees. For example, helping with the supply of catechetical materials, including audiovisual equipment .

Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji of Beirut has thanked ACN for all the help he has already received, and in advance,for the help he still about to receive. “We pray to Christ our Lord, the Good Samaritan, to pour out his graces on you in rich measure and bless you, and to reward you, and all those who have contributed to this wonderful work of charity, a hundredfold for the good you have done.”

At the same time he has asked us to help his community with additional aid for food and other necessities.

We have promised him 14,500 CAD.

Holy communion for the refugee children of Iraq and Syria, at St.Joseph Parish.

Holy communion for the refugee children of Iraq and Syria, at St.Joseph Parish.


 

ACN Feature – Catholics in the Arab World

27.12.2015 in ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Brazil, By Oliver Maksan, egypt, Feature Story, Gaza, Lebanon, Middle East

Catholics in the Arab World

“We will pray for Daesh [the Islamic State] ”

The Holy Year of Mercy is hailed with joy from Iraq to Morocco – Catholic voices are heard throughout the Arab world 

The Holy Year of Mercy that was solemnly inaugurated by Pope Francis on December 8 in Rome is being hailed with joy by Catholics throughout the Arab world – from Morocco all the way to Iraq and Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has gathered these impressions from across the Middle East.

Father Dankha Issa is a monk of the Alqosh Chaldean order. Last summer, hundreds of Christian refugees found refuge in the city after their villages were seized by jihadists. The ancient, exclusively Christian city is situated in the northern part of Iraq. As the crow flies, only about 15 kilometers separate the monastery of the Virgin in the Corn Field from the front line of the Islamic State. At night you can see the lights of the Islamic State from the mountains of Alqosh.

Au centre, le père Issa, qui a dû fuir la violence de l'ÉI en 2014. « Ce jubilé nous redonne espoir. Espérons donc que cette année éteindra le feu de la haine et apportera la paix. »

At the centre, Father Issa who fled the violence of IS in 2014 with an ACN delegation from several world offices.

“We are very thankful to Our Holy Father that he has proclaimed a Holy Year of Mercy. It is a time of grace for us,” the priest told ACN. He himself had been forced to flee IS from Mosul last June. “This Jubilee gives us new hope. Let us hope that this year will extinguish the fires of hate and bring peace.”

It is important for Father Dankha that the Christians of Alqosh experience the goodness of God that delivers us from sin. “In this year our attention is particularly drawn to how merciful God is with us sinners. God forgives us. But this also means that we have to forgive each other. Even the people of Daesh (IS), who have done so many evil things to us. After all, as a Christian you also have to love your enemies.” Father Dankha knows that this is anything but easy. “This is almost humanly impossible. But it is easier through faith. God is capable of everything.” Father Dankha’s particular wish is that the jihadists will change their ways. “Of course we hope that God will open and soften the hearts of the people of Daesh so that they cease their murderous doings. Let us pray that he will dispel the hate and violence in their hearts and let love take hold.”

His monastery wants to make it possible for the refugees to experience the mercy of God over the course of the year. “We will continue to support them with food and the like. However, we especially want to pray together, above all the rosary. This is what makes it possible for us suffering limbs of the Body of Christ to become one with the universal church and the Pope.”

To love as Jesus did

In Lebanon, Father Raymond Abdo wants to use the Holy Year as an opportunity to give a Christian response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. “The people who persecute Christians have to come into contact with Jesus Christ. Mercy thus means not allowing ourselves to hate these people,” the Carmelite from the northern city of Tripoli said. “We need the courage to pray for them and to love them. Because when they persecute Christians, they do not know what they are doing. This is what Jesus did on the cross.”

Le père Raymond Abdo, supérieur des carmes du Liban, en compagnie d'une religieuse. « La Miséricorde signifie donc de ne pas accepter de haïr ces gens »

Order of the discalced Carmelites in the Semi-Province of Lebanon: Rev. Fr. Raymond Abdo OCD (superior of the Carmelites in Lebanon)  in the company  of  a Sister

According to Father Raymond, what is decisive in this Year of Mercy is to love, as Jesus loved, people of other religions as well. “The church in the Middle East plays a role in many institutions that are visited by non-Christians. We have to love these people and show the mercy of the Gospels to them by example. Jesus did this with the Gentiles.” In the school in which he teaches, 65 per cent of the students are Muslim. “Respecting the Muslim students the same as the Christian ones: this is what mercy means to me.”

The Year of Mercy is also receiving attention in Gaza. Over the past years, the narrow Palestinian strip along the Mediterranean has experienced several Israeli-Palestinian wars leaving hundreds dead, thousands injured and tens of thousands homeless. Nowhere else is the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as brutal as it is here.

More than 1.8 million people live in the densely populated area. There are only about 1,300 Christians. The number of Catholics is hardly higher than 160. Father Mario da Silva is the priest of the Catholic parish of the Holy Family, who are said to have passed through today’s Gaza Strip on their way to Egypt.

Bringing his assistance to the conversion of hearts

The Brazilian from the Argentine Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) has been living in Gaza City for several years. During this time he has witnessed several wars. “This Holy Year is a big chance,” he told the charity. “TWe Christians can re-learn what the mercy of God means. This includes re-thinking the reality of sin. We are dependent upon the forgiveness of God. This is an opportunity to find out something new about the sacrament of penance.” his is why Father Mario wants to offer retreats in the summer that will address the mercy of God. The Sunday Sermons this year will also repeatedly focus on the subject of forgiveness.

Le père Mario da Silva. Cette photo fût prise durant un cessez-le-feu dans la Bande da Gaza, en août 2014. « Cette Année sainte représente une grande chance ».

Gaza City, during the ceasefire that lasted between August 5h and 8th: Father Mario da Silva. The Brazilian cleric works in the Catholic “Holy Family” parish in Gaza City. He belongs to the order “Institute of the Word Incarnate IVE”, which originated in Argentina.

Father Mario believes that interpersonal forgiveness grows out of God’s mercy for humans. “From the first moment I arrived in Gaza, of course I felt the hatred that the people harbour because of Israeli politics. This hatred is rooted in the injustice the people here experience every day. It may be less pronounced among the Christians because forgiveness belongs to our faith. But of course they also know this feeling. That is only human,” Father Mario said. “The wars, the destruction, the high unemployment rate that also affects the Christians: all this eats away at the people. However, as a priest I do not feel it is my first priority to change the political situation. That is not in our hands, even though the church of course draws attention to injustice as such. However, what we can do is to help convert our hearts.”

Reintroducing a culture of forgiveness

In Egypt as well, which borders on the Gaza Strip, the focus is on the conversion of hearts. For several months now, Father Beshoi has been the priest in Azareia, a Christian town in Upper Egypt near Asyut. The Coptic Catholic cleric wants to make the sacrament of penance more accessible to his parishioners again. “We need the forgiveness of God. Here, there are a lot of cases of revenge because of insults to family honour. These are often caused by something trivial. But the situations escalate until there are casualties. And that, even though only Christians live in our town. But they have assimilated to the Islamic culture that surrounds us. In Islam, God is only seen as a lawmaker who metes out punishment when His commandments are not heeded. However, I want to change this mentality. I want to show God to my brothers and sisters as a merciful Father who forgives us. However, this is also why we have to forgive each other. Thus, the Year of Mercy has come at just the right moment for me.”

There are many problems especially among the adolescents in the town. “Many take drugs because they feel unloved or misunderstood. I want to show them that God loves them and is waiting for them with open arms. I know that God can work miracles in the souls. Just recently, an almost 60-year-old man came to me for confession: for the first time in his life! I hope that I will see many such small miracles over the course of this year!”

The Holy Year is also being celebrated at the outermost Western edge of the Arab world. Admittedly, there are hardly any Catholics living in Morocco and the vast majority of these are foreigners. However, the few Catholics who are there take an active role in the life of the world Church. Such as the Sisters of the Carmelite convent of Tanger. “We embrace the Holy Year with pleasure and gratitude. It is a great grace that we want to experience together with the entire church. With all of our poverty and weakness and in recognising our sinfulness, we are on our way to the Father, whose embrace we have need of,” Sister Maria Virtudes said to ACN.

The Spaniard is the prioress of the community of Sisters who began the Jubilee with a prayer vigil. “We prayed to the Lord who is present in the Eucharist. In doing so, we took turns in singing the hymn that was composed for the Holy Year and held long moments of silent worship. As we did this, we were, together with the Immaculate Virgin, in communion with the entire Church.”

Des religieuses au Couvent des Carmélites de Tanger, au Maroc.

Carmelite Sisters of Tanger in Morocco.

By Oliver Maksan: ACN International
Adapted by : Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada

Journey with ACN – Lebanon & Syria

04.09.2015 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Lebanon, Syria

JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world and introducing you to various projects we have helped to bring into being together with our partners and ACN benefactors.

This week:  Lebanon & Syria

 

 

Lebanon

Success Story:  Completion of a parish centre in Deir El Ahmar

Almost everywhere in Lebanon you can see the picture of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. Numerous miracles and answers to prayers are attributed to the intercession of this modern Lebanese saint. Saint Charbel, who died on December 24, 1898 at the age of 70, is seen as the epitome of the monk, having lived a life of strict asceticism, penance and contemplative prayer. Even during his lifetime he was reported to have healed the sick, and it is even claimed that he raised two dead people back to life.

Not surprisingly, then, the parish of Deir El Ahmar in the Baalbek plain is dedicated to this revered Lebanese saint. This mainly Christian village, which is surrounded by overwhelmingly Muslim villages and towns, has a population of around 10,000 souls. The people here live in very simple and humble circumstances. Most of them are ordinary peasant farmers, just like the parents of Saint Charbel himself, who were poor. His father died young, so that as a young boy he already had to work, herding the flocks of goats, before finally entering the monastery at the age of 23.

The young people of Deir El Ahmar have little in the way of life prospects. Unemployment is high, and more and more young people are sliding into drugs and addiction. Almost half of all the school pupils leave school early because they can see no future for themselves.

In response to this situation, the parish of St. Charbel sent us an urgent appeal for help, to enable them to build a parish centre where these young people could be given help and encouraged to to occupy themselves meaningfully. It would be a place where they could do their homework, learn a range of manual skills, and also study and learn about their faith. And the centre was to be not only for young people, but would also offer programs for all age groups – from children to engaged couples, through to elderly people.

ACN immediately agreed and stepped in with $37,300  to fund the project.

Now the parish priest, Father Hanna Rahmé has written to thank us.  “On behalf of all the Catholic faithful of our parish, I would like to thank you and salute you,” he writes. “We are praying for all your generous benefactors who have helped us here in this region to bear witness to Christ, despite the difficult political situation and the uncertainty.”

 

LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 13/00044 Construction of a new parish center in the parish of St. Charbel (Bekaa): The building so far on 27.05.2015

LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 13/00044
Construction of a new parish center in the parish of St. Charbel (Bekaa): The building so far on 27.05.2015

 

 

Syria

Help to restore the church and other buildings in Quseir that were damaged or destroyed by the war

Quseir was once an important strategic town in Syria. It is situated not very far from the city of Homs, but at the same time it is quite close to the border with northern Lebanon and the route through to the Bekaa Valley. During the fighting for control of Quseir, almost all its 60,000 inhabitants – Christians and Muslims alike – fled the city.

Once there were 5,000 Greek Melkite Catholics living here. Some 40 of them were murdered and another eight remain unaccounted for to this day. The town was liberated two years ago, on 20 March 2013. And yet 80% of the houses in Quseir are either destroyed or uninhabitable. Of the 750 Christian families who once lived here, just 340 have now returned, after the Syrian army recaptured the town.

Now the bishop wants to repair some of the essential structures of the Church here, including the church, the parish house, the catechetical centre, parish centre and some other religious houses.

This repair work is essential in order to prevent further destruction of these properties, and above all so as to send a signal to the ordinary faithful. The visible rebuilding and the revival of Church life are the best way of reassuring the people and encouraging them to return to their former homes to live.

ACN has promised to help with a contribution of $35,800.

SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 15/00038 Help for Quseir (church, catechism center, parish hall, sisters' house)

SYRIA / HOMS-MLC 15/00038
Help for Quseir (church, catechism center, parish hall, sisters’ house)


 

 

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Feature story – Lebanon

18.08.2015 in ACN Canada, By Oliver Maksan, Lebanon

Lebanon

“What will become of us Christians?”

Due to the large number of Syrian refugees, Lebanon is in danger – warns a Lebanese Archbishop

Mgr Simon Atallah, archbishop of Baalbek Dayr Al-Ahmar Fr. Andrzej Halemba Trip to Lebanon 14 - 24 August 2012

The Lebanese Archbishop Simon Attallah fears for the future of Lebanon’s Christians. The cause is the threat to the country’s demographic balance arising from the large number of Syrian refugees in the country. The former Maronite Archbishop of Baalbek-Deir Al Ahmar emphasized this in an interview with the Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We have two million Syrians in the country as refugees. Many will return to their homeland when the war is over. But many refugees will remain in the country and apply for Lebanese citizenship in ten years. What will become of us Christians then?” asks Archbishop Attallah, who recently retired from the leadership of his diocese for reasons of age. “Lebanon is marked by a very delicate religious composition. Those Syrians who will remain in the country are mostly Sunnis. And the religious balance will thus be destroyed. That is a problem for us.” Archbishop Attallah hastens to add that his remarks should not be misunderstood as showing a lack of solidarity with the refugees. “We show much solidarity. We want to act in solidarity. But we have obvious problems before our eyes. There is a question mark over our future.”

A Syrian majority labour force

To give an example of the demographic changes, Archbishop Attallah mentioned his former bishop’s seat of Deir Al Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border. “Nine thousand Syrians now live in the area. But in the city itself there are only some 3 to 4 thousand Christians. Thus the Syrians represent a large majority.” There are many problems associated with the presence of the refugees according to Archbishop Attallah. “There is economic competition. Many Syrians have opened shops and restaurants.” Further, prior to the crisis Syrians made up a large section of the labour force and this situation has now intensified, the Archbishop says. “As a result the Lebanese cannot find work anymore.”

According to Archbishop Attallah, there have also been problems in the field of public morals. Thus, Syrian women prostitute themselves for Lebanese men. Conversely, the Archbishop continues, Lebanese women would also prostitute themselves for Syrian men. Moreover, there are also religious tensions. In individual cases, Muslims from Syria, especially Sunnis, have defiled Christian symbols in acts of blasphemy. “They defile crosses, statues of the Virgin Mary, and so on.” Anti-Christian slogans have also been painted on walls. “This leads to tensions in the region,” says the Archbishop.

Refugee camps, near Baalbeck

Refugee camps, near Baalbeck

Of greater concern is the import of security problems by Sunni extremists from Syria who have found refuge among their co-religionists in Lebanon. “The Lebanese Shiites are in favour of the Syrian regime, but the Sunnis are on the side of Daesh (Arabic acronym for ISIS). In the region where I work there are some Sunni villages such as Arsal and others. The Sunnis provide an inviting environment for Daesh. The members of Daesh can therefore penetrate into the region and find refuge among the Sunnis.”

According to Archbishop Attallah, the experience of the Syrian occupation also helps to explain the regional tensions. “Our experience with the Syrians was very bad. They occupied the country for thirty years. We suffered terribly under them.” Archbishop Attallah is referring here to the occupation of Lebanon by Syrian troops which lasted until 2005. “There were Lebanese who were kidnapped and taken to Syria. They are missing without trace. There are hundreds, thousands of such cases.” Lebanon also suffered economically under the occupation. Many companies left the country and settled elsewhere. “And finally they killed our democracy. Lebanon’s democracy was well known. So we Lebanese really do not have good memories of the Syrian occupation.”

Looking back on his period in office, Archbishop Attallah says that his relationship with the Muslims in the region, especially the Shiites, was good. “We had no problems with the Muslims, especially the Shiites, who are in the majority in our district. On the contrary, I was able to prepare two visits to the district by our Patriarch. He visited both Christian and Muslim villages. He was always well received everywhere.”

 

 

 

Feature Story – Helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon

27.07.2015 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Oliver Maksan, Lebanon, Pastoral care, Refugees, Sisters

Lebanon

“I used to shoot at Syrians. Now I’m helping them.”

With the support of Aid to the Church in Need, Catholic Sisters in Lebanon are helping Syrian refugees – and banishing the shadows of the past.

 

Clusters of tents erected on open land stretch out across the Bekaa plain. Plastic sheets drawn over wooden and iron frames: these are the new homes for tens of thousands of people. Nowhere is the Syrian war as close as here in East Lebanon. The Lebanese army and IS terrorists already engaged in fierce fighting in the area last year. Lebanon is top of the list of areas which ISIS wants to incorporate in the Islamic caliphate which they have set up in parts of Syria and Iraq.

From the Christian town of Deir al Ahmar it’s only a few kilometres to Syria. The war-torn country lies behind the high, snow-covered mountains. Tens of thousands of Syrian war refugees have sought refuge in this area, camping in tents on the vast, fertile plain. Bumpy dirt tracks – when it rains small lakes form in the potholes – lead to one of the ten camps which have been set up around Deir Al Ahmar.

Syrian Muslim refugee woman in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. Sr. Micheline helps them from day one on. LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00052 PrID: 1502438 Aid to refugees in the region of Deir El Ahmar – 2015 LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00050   PrID: 1500532 Support and development of the mission of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd Social Centre, Deir Al Ahmar, Baalbeck, Bekaa

Syrian Muslim refugee women in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. Sr. Micheline helps them from day one on.
 Deir Al Ahmar, Baalbeck, Bekaa

“They’re not Muslims – they’re criminals”

“In the winter it was of course very cold,” says a young mother of seven. “The snow was piled high and the wind blew mercilessly. It wasn’t easy.” The families who live here are all Sunni Muslims and come from Raqqa, the East Syrian city which has been a stronghold of the Islamic terrorist group ISIS for a number of years. “We lived under ISIS,” a man says, agitatedly. “They’re not Muslims – they’re criminals. Our women had to completely veil themselves. We men were no longer allowed to smoke. They control everything.” A woman in the tent says: “We knew God before ISIS. They don’t need to explain anything to us.” This family had fled from ISIS and the war in Syria to Lebanon a few months earlier and were scarcely able to take anything with them, which caused a considerable amount of distress.

Many are deeply grateful for what Sister Micheline and her helpers are doing for them. This Catholic Sister has set up an aid centre for the refugees with the help of Aid to the Church in Need. “God bless Sister Micheline,” says one woman. Sister Micheline makes a gesture of dismissal. “What was I supposed to do? In the middle of winter 2011 I suddenly had more than 150 people, some wearing only sandals, standing in the deep snow at my door. As a member of the Order of the Good Shepherd I couldn’t possibly send them away?” She decided to help. More than 800 Syrian families in the area are currently being supplied with food, clothing or mattresses.

Syrian Muslim refugees with Sister Micheline in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. Sr. Micheline Lattouf (Good Shepherd Sisters) helps them from day one on. LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00052 PrID: 1502438 Aid to refugees in the region of Deir El Ahmar – 2015 LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00050   PrID: 1500532 Support and development of the mission of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd Social Centre, Deir Al Ahmar, Baalbeck, Bekaa

Syrian Muslim refugees with Sister Micheline in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. Sr. Micheline Lattouf (Good Shepherd Sisters) 

Humans like me

Sister Micheline is supported by Raed (name changed for security reasons). For four years this fifty-year-old Christian has dedicated his energies to the refugees. It’s by no means obvious that he would do this. “I used to shoot at Syrians. Now I’m helping them,” he says. “I was a fighter against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.” He points to his body, which was seriously wounded in earlier battles.

The army which held the occupation only withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. “The Syrian army did terrible things here. We defended ourselves and our homeland. I always saw the Syrians as my enemy. But when the refugees arrived, I looked at their faces and realized that they are humans like me. They need my help,” Raed explains. He was especially impressed by Sister Micheline’s example. “I saw how the Sister looked at the people. This convinced me without the need for big words. I realized that the Syrian regime was my enemy, not the people.”

Sr. Micheline Lattouf

Sr. Micheline Lattouf

Sister Micheline makes a plea for understanding. “You have to realize that this area suffered considerably as a result of the Lebanese civil war and the Syrian occupation. There were tensions both with the Shiites and with the Syrian army of occupation. Many Christians therefore left. Whole Christian villages were abandoned. To improve life a little my order decided in 2005 to open up a centre to support native Christians here, and especially the children. We offered and continue to offer not only catechetical instruction, but also homework courses and leisure activities. People have responded enthusiastically. It’s important that the children get out of their houses. Throughout the winter, which is very long here, they all sit in one room and get on one another’s nerves. Then the Syrians suddenly came. The people thought someone was going to take something away from them again.”

Breaking down prejudices

During the civil war from 1975 to 1990 and up to the withdrawal of the Syrians from Lebanon in 2005, 300 adolescents and young men from the town were killed in battles with the Syrians, the Sister explains. “The people haven’t forgotten that. They say: Why should we help them? We don’t exactly have it easy ourselves,” Sister Micheline says. Because of this, at first, it had been very difficult to explain to the people why the Syrians were being helped. The Sister believes this situation has improved a little in the meantime. “The people in the village are slowly beginning to give up their reluctance. I tell them that we, as Christians, must not live in the spirit of revenge, but have to forgive.” She is happy that her work is bearing fruit. And the refugees are also making an effort. “Two Syrian boys, both Muslims, reported to me how they had once worked up the courage to approach some Christian boys and talk with them a little. They certainly didn’t find this easy to do. Showing respect for others and taking the first step are crucial factors here.” But Sister Micheline not only attempts to get this Christian message across to the children. “We offer manicure courses to enable the women to earn a little extra. This means that Christian women from the village met Syrian refugee women. This also helps to break down prejudices.”

Mother with child - syrian Muslim refugees in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. Sr. Micheline helps them from day one on. LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00052 PrID: 1502438 Aid to refugees in the region of Deir El Ahmar – 2015 LEBANON / BAALBEK-MAR 15/00050   PrID: 1500532 Support and development of the mission of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd Social Centre, Deir Al Ahmar, Baalbeck, Bekaa

Mother with child – Syrian Muslim refugees in a camp near Deir al Ahmar. 

Sister Micheline is not only worried about the immediate needs of the people. “At some time the war will be over. And what then? How can the people live together again after all that’s happened in Syria? There’s a need for reconciliation, education and prospects. There’s nothing worse than watching a lost generation grow up.” Sister Micheline therefore sets great store by education. In the morning 350 Syrian children attend school and are given a warm meal. “The parents are so grateful. It gives them a feeling of normality. The need is much greater. Unfortunately we don’t have sufficient resources. But in the summer we are organizing a holiday camp. This will be able to accommodate all the refugee children.”


God's Initiative

Sister Micheline’s story is featured in the ACN Publication “God’s Initiative – Stories of Exceptional Sisters” along with 12 other similar and inspiring stories.  You can order your copy on our website or by calling us at 514.932.0552 – x221  to place your order by phone.