On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, massive explosions rocked Beirut, set off by a fire near a facility that has for several years held highly combustible chemicals at the Port of Beirut. The explosions were felt as far away as the island nation of Cyprus, just across the Mediterranean waters. The numbers of fatalities and injured continue to rise, even as thousands became homeless.
The country of Lebanon has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks so the health care system is already heavily stressed; and now it is simply overwhelmed with the victims of this explosion. In addition, many people are missing or unaccounted for. Yesterday’s disaster was simply devastating in a country that continues to experience the Coronavirus pandemic, a severe economic and financial crisis, distrust in government, and is attempting to provide for a refugee population from the decade-long war in Syria next door.
The UCC and Disciples have several partners in Lebanon, through Global Ministries, and we are in touch with them. Many have reported that staff are safe, but facilities are damaged. The president of the Near East School of Theology, for example, reports that the seminary sustained more damage yesterday than in 15 years of civil war (1975-1990).
The UCC and Disciples have three mission co-workers serving in Lebanon currently, appointed through Global Ministries. We are in contact with them. They too, are safe from harm, and are working with the partners they serve as they determine appropriate response.
We anticipate that we will receive reports from partners in the coming days as they assess the extent of the impact, and will likely also receive appeals for emergency response and for repair of facilities. In the meantime, we ask that you join us in offering fervent prayers for the people of Lebanon, our partners, and our mission co-workers serving there on our behalf in these especially challenging and frightening times.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
Holy God, ever present, our hearts are once again heavy as we watch the disaster in Beirut unfold. We pray comfort for those who have lost loved ones and remember those who have lost their lives, commending their souls to your care. In the midst of this tragedy, we are mindful of those who are injured and of the many who are ill, and of communities that are already struggling to address the many needs that are present. We pray for relief in these days of suffering, may our lives and our resources be a source of assistance, love and care. Be present with all who mourn today, grant peace and renewed hope. Comfort, O comfort your people we pray. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thomson and Rev. Dr. Julia Brown Karimu
Co-Executives, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Dr. Peter Makari
Executive, Middle East and Europe, Global Ministries