Elias is a Christian and a barber living in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Despite the many political and economic crises that his country has endured over the years, he managed to support himself and his loved ones with the income from his barber shop.
That all changed on 4 August 2020 when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse at the port, killing more than 200 people and injuring 7,000.
The shockwaves shattered windows as far as 26 km away. More than 300,000 people, including many Christians, lost their homes or were temporarily displaced because of the damage wrought. Four of the five neighbourhoods worst affected were predominantly Christian.
Christian families given back their dignity
Elias’ barber shop was one of thousands of business premises shattered by the blast. Suddenly, he had no work, no income and no means of supporting his family. “Many NGOs went to visit Elias and made reports,” said our project partner in Beirut. “Yet it is only Barnabas that helped fix his shop so he and his family live in dignity.”
Barnabas helped repair at least 170 houses, apartments and businesses of Christians. The arrival of winter made the work more urgent as many homes that seemed to be relatively unharmed began to leak, and premises awaiting new doors and windows became vulnerable to water damage.
Our first set of grants also provided food for 3,400 Christian families, hygiene items for 1,000 families (such as sanitiser, disinfectant, toothbrushes etc), medical assistance for 112 families/individuals, and financial support for 274 Christians in need. Some of those helped were converts from Islam, who could not receive other aid because coming forward would put their lives at risk, or Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria.
Explosion a “final blow” to economy
Lebanon’s economy was in meltdown and hyperinflation rife even before the explosion devastated its main port. “In a country already struggling to survive too many crises, the explosion came as a final blow,” said our project partner. In the year since the disaster the Lebanese pound fell to an all time low, having lost 85% of its value at the time of writing, causing poverty to soar in a country that relies heavily on imports. The price of basic foods, nappies and construction materials spiralled, medicines were in short supply and jobs previously thought secure were wiped out by the financial turmoil. Covid-19 has compounded the city’s misery and hospitals are overflowing.
Georgette is a single Christian woman who lives with her elderly brother. She lost her job as a school cleaner after the explosion because the school was no longer able to keep paying her. Barnabas helped Georgette to set up a small business selling her homemade pickles and tomato sauces. “Thanks to Barnabas, she is not a beggar anymore,” declared our partner. “She earns enough to enable her to live in dignity.”
Project reference: PR1533
(Needy Christians in Lebanon)