Posted by Br Robert Schieler
on 17 August 2020
Most of you are aware of recent and tragic developments in Beirut. The devastating explosion in the city seems to have been caused by ammonium nitrate deposits stored adjacent to the seaport. The blast was felt from as far away as 12 km. Three of our schools in the city center College Notre Dame, Ecole Saint Vincent de Paul, and College Sacre-Creur - Freres Gemmayze were severely damaged. The latter school, being closer to the port suffered the greatest.
This disaster comes at an extremely challenging moment for the country in general, and our institutions in particular. During the past several years, the situation in Lebanon has been deteriorating due to the Syrian war. As Syrian refugees have flooded Lebanon, their presence has caused social and financial crises, fueling public unrest. With almost 25% of the country's population now comprised of Syrian refugees, the country has been paralyzed for months. Then Covid-19 arrived to overburden an already fragile system. The present disaster is the classic "straw which breaks the camel's back!"
I am aware that many of you, in different ways, due to the impact of the pandemic, are faced with the same problem: how to keep our institutions open. The Visitor of Proche Orient, before this last disaster, had already written to me indicating their uncertainty about reopening and financing the schools. Today, this precarious situation has changed into an extreme emergency.
The Christian educational institutions in Lebanon have a value that goes far beyond the simple fact of being centers of educational excellence. The presence of these institutions is vital for the maintenance of the precarious socio-political-religious balance of Lebanon because it is the only Middle Eastern country where various religions peacefully coexist. If schools close, the emigration of Christians and other minorities would accelerate exponentially. It is critical to recognize that our presence in the region goes far beyond the simple fact of having schools. We are vital peacemakers in our schools, among our families, and throughout the country. As such, our local presence serves as an essential link to regional peace.
It is because of the importance of the Lasallian mission in the Middle East that I ask your support. In a global, interconnected world, what happens in the Middle East affects all of us. I am sure that the solidarity that has always characterized Lasallians will find a way, despite the difficulties that each of you are facing in your respective locations, to go one step further, always trusting in Providence.
The appeal has been published on the lnstitute's communication channels - social media and the websites www.lasalle.org and www.lasallefoundation.org; I invite you to share this appeal with your communication officers and ask them to publish this message.
I am grateful for your support and I invite you to make this appeal known to all Lasaliians , particularly those of Lebanese origin.