Lebanon, known for centuries as the „Switzerland of the Orient“ is going through an economic collapse without parallel, with last year‘s record inflation almost rivalling that of countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The currency has lost 90% of its value, vehicle fuel is unaffordable for most people and the state electricity supply has practically collapsed, leaving people with just two hours electricity a day. Youth unemployment stands at 60% and many families can barely afford to eat. Over three quarters of the population are now living in poverty. The result is that the future of the Christian population is greatly threatened, here as throughout the Middle East – a population that has been here since the time of Jesus Christ.
The Maronite diocese of Baalbek is one of the poorest in the country. Christians are a minority here. Even before the economic crisis, people were poor here, with an average monthly income of barely US$450. But things have grown even worse since then, and the minimum wage is now equivalent to just around 20 US dollars a month. For ordinary families, rent, electricity, food and medicines are a heavy financial burden, and they often have to choose what is most essential, for example cutting down on basic food in order to pay for rent or medicines.
The diocese is trying to help the poorest families in the parishes by providing food parcels to help them over the worst of their plight. Hence the appeal from the diocese to ACN: „Let us join forces, so that no one have to go to bed hungry and so that as far as possible these people too can come through this crisis safely and regain their trust in humanity.“ Our help will also be a contribution to the survival of the Christian communities in Lebanon, where Christians have been living since biblical times, yet from which more and more people are abandoning their homeland, because they can see no future there for themselves and their families.
We are proposing to help the diocese of Baalbek to feed the 500 poorest families, for example those with many children or with elderly and sick family members, by supplying parcels of basic necessities. These are families with at least five members.