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.
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.
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.