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Christians in the Muslim World

When goodness spreads: a testimony from Lebanon

Fr Damiano Puccini

Lebanon's political institutions are more stable today, following the long-awaited and highly contentious election of the president; however, fears remain that what is happening in neighbouring countries might spill over. And concern is growing about the economic consequences of crisis and war. Minorities, in particular Christians, are in particular aware of their repercussions.


We try to be closer to the poor by providing them with all kinds of material help. It is one way for the local Church to heed the Pope's appeal, when he urged us to be first and foremost messengers of peace, forgiveness and patience, both inside and outside our own milieu.


My thoughts go to our volunteers who not only offer their time but also their meagre economic resources to others. Some young people continue to teach in Muslim high schools, without concealing their Christian symbols, bearing true and simple witness to the Gospel. Other volunteers prepare food packages and clothes, teach after-school hours for free, collect and hand out medicines as well as try to get doctors to provide free medical assistance to the most urgent cases.


Some time ago I was impressed by a tangible act of solidarity. A poor family, unable to forgo helping others worse off than themselves, generously offered me something.


Mgr Michel Kassarji, head of the Chaldean Church in Lebanon, said that the arrival of Iraqi refugees has created a new emergency situation for the country's Christian community.


"Until two years ago, my community had about 5,000 members. Now we have had to take charge of some 8,000 brothers and sisters from Iraq. It is an almost impossible situation, even if we are doing all we can. Some situations are crazy. One day I went to the hospital to find out how I could arrange the funeral of a refugee who had just passed away. There I was told that unless someone paid the hefty hospital bill they would not release the body to me for burial."


The humanitarian commitment of the Lebanese Church not only encourages us in Lebanon by keeping civil war at bay, but also others. If we keep in mind that solidarity primes over everything else, we realise that it is always possible to promote what is good, however negative the context burdening the country might be.


If the poor, with their trust in God, joyfully devote themselves to someone else in need, offering them something that is theirs, they can through this act encourage the latter to accept difficult and unfair situations without rebelling. Goodness can indeed be contagious.