“In one second, more damage to the Christian quarter of Beirut was done than throughout the long years of the civil war.”
These are the words of Father Raymond Abdo who is on the ground witnessing firsthand the devastating effects of the recent explosion in the port of Beirut.
And news is now breaking that the explosion wasn’t just a freak accident…
The explosion was caused by an orphaned shipment of highly volatile chemicals that had been stored at the port since 2013.
For 6 years, Lebanese officials refused to decide what to do with the shipment, and the 2,750-ton load of ammonium nitrate spontaneously combusted this week.
The resulting explosion has killed at least 135 people, wounded at least 5,000, and destroyed the homes of hundreds of thousands of Beirut citizens.
“The explosion felt like an atomic bomb with red smoke everywhere and huge damage,” described Father Abdo.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Abdo and others quickly realized that the city’s Christian quarter was among the most heavily damaged areas.
ACN’s Lebanon expert, Father Samer Nassif, described the Christian zone of Beirut as “completely devastated” and “totally destroyed.”
At least 10 churches were destroyed in the blast and 300,000 people throughout the quarter were left homeless, jobless, and without prospects.
“We have to build it up again from the ground up,” said Father Abdo.
After years of civil war and economic crisis, Beirut’s Christians are accustomed to suffering, but this is a shocking turn of events for anyone.
“Gemmayzeh, an upscale Christian neighborhood known in better times for its historic buildings, abundant churches and rowdy nightlife, resembled a war zone,” reported the New York Times.
“Cars with smashed windshields lined the curbs. Branches torn from trees blocked roads.”
“Everywhere, it seemed, residents were cleaning glass, rubble and blood from shops, homes and balconies.”
“It’s a war scene,” confirmed Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, a Catholic leader in Beirut.
“There is destruction and desolation in all [the] streets, [the] districts and [the] houses.”
Of the 130 people who died in the explosion, it has not been confirmed how many were Christians.
At least one religious sister died from injuries sustained in the blast and the death toll may rise as residents of the Christian quarter struggle to find food, shelter, and other necessities in the aftermath.
Even Christian hospitals have been impacted, leaving them with limited resources to help survivors.
“All the elevators are broken, all the respirators, all the monitors, all the doors—everything is destroyed,” said Dr. Joseph Elias, a cardiologist at Rosary Hospital.
“It is just the walls of the hospital that are still here.”
“This is as bad as Sept. 11,” added Dr. Raja Ashou, another physician. “For us, it is like that.”
“Now we are living a national catastrophe,” concluded Hassan Koraytem, the port director.
And after the long-running economic crisis and the current pandemic, Lebanon’s government is ill-equipped to help Beirut replace the $3 billion of damage caused by this utterly avoidable explosion.
Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai called on countries around the world to provide aid to Lebanon, “because what happened goes beyond politics and goes beyond conflicts.”
He beseeched the global church to step up and help Christ’s family in Beirut, and some organizations, like ACN, have already launched programs to do just that.
“We will provide immediate help to those affected by this tragedy and in the long run we will continue our work to help the Church be a beacon of hope,” said Edward Clancy, ACN USA’s Director of Outreach.
“The explosion in Beirut is illustrative of the general situation in Lebanon and much of the Middle East,” Clancy added.
“The country and region are plagued with conditions that easily turn deadly [for Christians and other citizens].”
Many Beirut citizens have expressed the sentiment that they “aren’t expecting any support because there is no state.”
So we, the global Church, have an unprecedented opportunity to display God’s love and provision to those in need.
Please pray for Christians across Beirut and join ACN in supporting our brothers and sisters in Lebanon through this link.