There’s something about Lebanon, and Canadians see it

There’s something about Lebanon, and Canadians see it

By Carl Hétu, Executive Director, CNEWA – Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada

There are more than 200,000 Lebanese in Canada and, clearly, they have generous hearts and many friends. On August 6, just two days after the explosion in Beirut, we launched an appeal to send emergency funds for response efforts on the ground – helping organizations such as The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, religious communities and hospitals – to name a few. The response from Canadians has greatly exceeded our expectations. In less than three months, we’ve received more than $600,000 from generous Canadian donors – and the flow of care, prayers and donations, keeps on coming.

Lebanon’s special nature, and role 

Every country is special, but Lebanon, especially through its DNA and core characteristics, might carry extra significance in today’s world. In a region so rich in religious and historical import and natural beauty, yet rife with conflict and geo-political gamesmanship, Lebanon stands firm as a multi-confessional, relatively accepting, pluralistic and highly entrepreneurial society. 

“Lebanon is an example of unity in diversity,” said Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Maronite Patriarch. “This small country has resisted, for centuries, against persecution and oppression by various foreign occupations, prospered and remained strong.”

As Saint John Paul II said, ‘Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message.’ And it’s truly inspiring to see the extent to which Canadians see this special role. 

Lebanon’s lesson: ward off walls  

As I reflect on the state of affairs in our world, I see how important it is for us to fight for dialogue and communication among peoples. There is awesome richness and wealth in the world, but we must find a way to ensure that these flow freely to areas and groups that need it most. We all pass through valleys in life and the last thing we need are walls that segregate us from our brothers and sisters, regardless of their ethnic, national or religious affiliation. We must remain ever vigilant against these walls that separate us, whether they are technological in nature, sectarian, based on economic gain or any form of discrimination. Sadly, these chasms come from inside of us, from our brokenness, just as much as they do from external forces. Without walls, we can have hope that communities of care and mutual support will take over and win the day as we’ve seen with the Beirut explosion. Once again, Lebanon is teaching us an important lesson: there is universal truth to the saying, “I am my brother’s keeper”. Falling prey to the belief of a zero-sum game, the machinations of the power-hungry, greedy or, worse, our innermost fears or selfish interests against the other leaves us spiritually empty and in a state of fear and separation. 

Government is good – but oftentimes gauche  

Sadly, too many of the great upheavals currently plaguing our world are tied to governments or large institutions. Saying the Lebanese are not too pleased with their elected officials is an understatement. As a hopeful people of faith and goodwill, let us pray for all government leaders – that they may benefit from the Wisdom of Solomon. At the same time, though, let us not overly rely on them. Government programs and support can be helpful, and they do find their just place in any society, but it’s just impossible for such institutions to act as caringly and quickly as smaller groups of people – in our case, from a modest but growing group of Canadian donors. 


To view our live stream of “Hope and Hurt in Beirut” where Maggie John is joined by Nabil Costa from downtown Beirut where Nabil speaks from roof of a hospital hit by the explosion, click here.

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