Lebanese Cardinal Béchara Boutros Rai asked everyone watching a Sept. 10 webinar “not to forget Lebanon.”
The Middle East nation has faced political and economic corruption as well as Covid-19. An Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port killed nearly 200 people, wounded 6,500 and displaced 300,000 from their homes.
More than 50 percent of Lebanon’s residents live below the poverty line, and the nation’s currency has declined in value by 80 percent.
“Today, I would like to urge all our friends, all those who believe in the importance of a culture of freedom, moderation, diversity and interreligious co-living, not to forget Lebanon at this time of great need, as it faces the worst existential crisis in its history,” said Cardinal Rai as he closed his opening remarks during the webinar hosted by the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture in partnership with Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Salt & Light Media.
The webinar was titled “Lebanon’s Tragedy, Lebanon’s Hopes: An Update on Beirut From Cardinal Rai.”
“I wish to address in particular the millions of Lebanese (outside the country), and indeed all friends of Lebanon in the free world: Please do not let Lebanon fall into despair. Help us restore it, once again, to that vibrant and flourishing religious, political and cultural model in the Middle East so that it may be able to play its role and fulfill its own mission.”
CNEWA, which is headquartered at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan, began a campaign of prayers and collecting funds for Lebanon Aug. 5. CNEWA is a papal agency that assists regions affected by poverty, war and displacement in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.
Cardinal Dolan, who serves as CNEWA’s chairman of the board, delivered opening remarks at the webinar.
“I am very joyful to be with my beloved and esteemed brother, His Beatitude Cardinal Rai,” he said. “He is a brother to me, he is a teacher, he is a model, and he is a leader who inspires not only Lebanon but the world.
“When we say Lebanon, people smile because we love your country, we love you, we love your people. We appreciate the beauty and the hope and promise of Lebanon,” the cardinal said.
“But when we say Lebanon, we also sometimes cry because we know of suffering and the war and just the peril that your country is constantly in.”
Following opening remarks, Cardinal Rai answered questions from Tom Gallagher of Religion Media Company, including one regarding the importance of Christians and Muslims living as they do in Lebanon.
“In Lebanon, Christians and Muslims live together in equality and with a constitution,” Cardinal Rai said through a translator. “We want to maintain this for the sake of the Arab world, for the sake of the Christians in the world. They say if the Christians in Lebanon are what they are trying to be, living on equal basis with the Muslims, then we have some hope.
“This is why Lebanon should remain strong. When it is strong, they can maintain that balance and can give hope to Christians all over the Middle East.”
Cardinal Dolan, in closing the hour session, said the encounter had “only enhanced our love, our support and our prayer for solidarity, and we can never forget Lebanon.”
Information: https://cnewa.org/campaigns/lebanoncrisis/ or 800-442-6392.