For Caritas, despite the refugee crisis, solidarity prevails among Lebanon’s families

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In a country of “limited resources”, where the government “is no longer able to cope with this situation,” the emergency “remains high”, said Fr Paul Karam. Despite the bleak picture, there are some rays of hope. People help each other: young Christians and Muslims meet; families show their solidarity in small deeds; and parishes provide children with moments of leisure and celebration.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – For Fr Paul Karam, director of Caritas Lebanon, the refugee emergency “remains high” in the country. Faced with “limited resources”, a government that “is no longer able to cope with this situation,” and an “ongoing economic and institutional crisis,” the “country finds itself on the brink of collapse”.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that the local Caritas has led the way for more than four years in helping Syrian and other refugees entering the country in a never-ending flow.

Indeed, despite the emergency, there are “examples of solidarity, of people helping each other;” situations “in which young Christians and Muslims meet and talk to each other”. This keeps hope for the future alive.

According to United Nations figures, some 1.2 million Syrians fled to Lebanon in more than four years of war. However, these are only those who have registered with its agencies. Other sources say that Lebanon has taken in nearly 1.6 million Syrian refugees. In addition, there are at least 700 Iraqi Christian families from Baghdad, Mosul and Erbil as well as tens of thousands of Palestinians from Syria.

Thus, the country of 4.4 million people is confronted with major demographic, economic, political, and security challenges, and finds it increasingly difficult to handle the situation. And things have not changed that much lately.

Refugees increasingly “want to flee, go to Europe, above all Germany.” The risk that the Middle East might be emptied of its Christian communities remains high. For this reason, the Church continues to “encourage the international community to engage in dialogue, peace, justice and mutual respect.”

“In the meantime, needs remain high, whilst the means to meet them are limited,” Fr Karam explained. “For this reason, if there are safe regions in the war-torn countries, we should encourage people to come back.”

Ultimately, for the clergyman, the Arab Spring has failed, causing destruction, wars, arms race and aggravated the economic and social crises in the various countries of the region.

Caritas Lebanon remains committed to relief work, providing food aid but also psychological support and encouragement for Christian-Muslim dialogue, especially among young people.

“Since the summer,” Fr Karam explained, “we have encouraged dialogue by organising meetings between young Christian and Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon itself. The goal is to show them how to build countries based on coexistence, and that people can talk to each other.”

“What we call peace building has been met by a positive response,” he added. “Young people want to contribute to this process, by getting rid of the fear of others.”

In this context of crisis, the people of Lebanon “still harbour great hope and continue to show their solidarity”, even if “families are getting increasingly poor and the refugee emergency is bringing the country closer to the brink.”

“We need a miracle,” he said. “In this year of mercy, we want to encourage people to go forward, and live in hope as a people and as Christians”.

For Christmas, many of Lebanon’s parishes and dioceses have promoted significant initiatives “to reiterate the message of hope.” For instance, “many families took part in fundraising activities to buy food, basic necessities and gifts for the poor,” Caritas Lebanon’s director said.

“Despite it being a difficult time for everyone, solidarity among people has not diminished. Many parishes organised celebrations and leisure time for children, animated by young people and Caritas volunteers.”

“I believe in peace based on justice and respect,” Fr Karam noted. And “The international community has a duty to resolve the crisis, easing tensions through diplomatic channels, not at the detriment of poor people.”,-despite-the-refugee-crisis,-solidarity-prevails-among-Lebanon%E2%80%99s-families-36345.html