Seeds of faith and hope in crisis-hit Lebanon

Tearfund’s church partners are helping to meet people’s needs in Lebanon.(Photo: MERATH/Tearfund)

Christian Today speaks to Ali Wood, Tearfund’s country director for Lebanon, about how Christians are responding to the many challenges affecting the crisis-hit country.

Lebanon has been struggling with a political and economic crisis, in addition to the long recovery after the 2020 explosion. How is the situation generally on the ground?

As winter approaches in Lebanon, many are struggling to find work and to afford food or even the most basic necessities.

There are multiple crises in Lebanon; the country is still recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is prolonged economic instability with the twin impact of hyper-inflation and a drastically devalued currency. This is particularly damaging as Lebanon imports around 80 per cent of its goods, and there were shortages even before the Beirut port explosion.

Since the start of the conflict in neighbouring Syria in 2011, Lebanon has generously welcomed around 1.5 million Syrian refugees into the country. This means that one in four people in Lebanon is a refugee, which has added to the strain on the country’s struggling economy.

The burden of the economic crisis is heavy on everyone living in Lebanon, regardless of where they come from.

Has the Gaza-Israel conflict added to the challenges?

The Gaza-Israel conflict is increasing tensions across the wider region. There has been fighting on the Israel-Lebanon border, which has caused more than 60,000 people to flee their homes to find safety, and the situation is escalating almost daily.

One of our own Tearfund staff members has been directly affected – he and his family had to leave their home in the south and are sheltering in a safer area, not knowing when they can return. Only his father has remained, to guard their family home. He says, “my family is exhausted now and, like all those in close proximity to the border, we are living in uncertainty and just waiting to see how events unfold.”

Some of the displaced people were already refugees, and it’s especially difficult for the very vulnerable, such as those with very young children, the elderly or those with disabilities.

One of our church partners told us that entire crops of the olive harvest – which so many families rely on – have been wiped out as bombs have destroyed the trees or made the ground toxic.

How is the mood in the general population at the moment?

The impact of so many crises over such a long period means many are struggling and living in fear. Schools have been closed along the border region since October, so parents are concerned for their children’s education and future.

One of Tearfund’s church partners told us: “People living in the South of Lebanon have been in need of assistance for a long time, they feel forgotten and no-one was helping them.

“It is especially hard on the children, because they could hear the sounds of the bombs falling. Their mental health has crumbled. The main reason why so many families fled was to protect their children from physical injuries but also from psychological trauma.

“Some of them are able to continue studying online but they find it very hard to focus and learn anything like this. They are used to being and playing outside a lot and they don’t do well stuck in a small space within four walls.”

Is there any cause for optimism that things might improve in 2024?

There is always reason to hope, although these are very difficult times. There are so many crises globally and many in Lebanon fear they will be overlooked by the international community.

We do see hope in the way Tearfund’s church partners and other faith organisations are responding to these crises, and in the way that people and communities are brought together.

For example, one of our partners runs a youth peace-building programme, bringing together young people from across religious and ethnic divides to work alongside each other, and build relationships that start to bring understanding and healing. The young people involved have told us this work greatly changed the way they view each other, and they are able to see past religious divides, they see a shared vision for peace in the future and want to be ambassadors for that change.

How have Christians been affected? And how are Christians responding?

People of all faiths, and none, have been deeply affected. The church in the Middle East region is very diverse and under extraordinary pressure. Yet even in the midst of that pressure, faith communities are demonstrating incredible compassion and commitment.

Tearfund is working with local churches and partners in Lebanon to provide assistance for people displaced from their homes by the conflict on the Israel-Lebanon border. We’re seeing churches open their doors to all in need, showing God’s love to people who feel abandoned.

Tearfund works with churches because we know it works – churches are at the heart of their communities, and will be for generations to come.

One way people could support them is to pray that young Christians are able to find work so they can stay in Lebanon to carry on serving with their families and churches. As the economic crisis deepens, more and more young people are feeling they have no choice but to leave and find work elsewhere.

How else can Christians in the UK support and pray for Lebanon?

Thank you for praying, our partners and the communities they serve tell us that knowing people are praying for them around the world gives them hope.

Pray for people forced to flee their homes, especially the most vulnerable – pray for safe places to stay, for food and comfort, and that they will soon be able to return home.

Pray for a ceasefire and an end to the violence in the region. Pray for world leaders with influence in the region to make wise decisions that lead to lasting peace and reconciliation.

Pray for Christian communities, faith leaders and humanitarian workers across the region – for unity, connection and mutual understanding, and the ability to meet people’s needs.

To donate to Tearfund’s Middle East appeal visit:

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