“Beirut, the bride of the East, Beirut, the lighthouse of the West, is wounded”. It is a “devastated city”, reduced to “a scenario of war without war”. Thus begins the appeal launched by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai “to the States of the world”, after the “mysterious explosion” (this is the emblematic expression chosen by the Patriarch himself) which took place on Tuesday 4 August in the port of the Lebanese capital, with a provisional toll of more than one hundred dead and thousands injured.
The devastating event – repeated the Lebanese Cardinal – disemboweled the city, spreading death and devastation, destroying hospitals, houses, churches and mosques, hotels, and shops. And this – the Patriarch urges – occurs just as the Lebanese State “is in a situation of economic and financial bankruptcy which renders it unable to face this catastrophe”, with the people reduced “in conditions of poverty and misery”.
The Church – reports the Cardinal – has set up a rescue network throughout the Lebanese territory, but the emergency is such that every effort made by the national community is unequal with respect to the catastrophe that has hit the Country. For this reason, on behalf of the Church in Lebanon, Patriarch Rai thanks in advance “all the States that have expressed their willingness to help Beirut”, and addresses “all the friend and brother States”, and in particular to the great Powers and to the United Nations, asking everyone for immediate help for the salvation of Beirut, regardless of any political and geopolitical consideration and calculation, “because what happened goes beyond politics and goes beyond conflicts”. Lebanon, bent in recent years by a sequence of political, financial, economic, and national security catastrophes – adds the Maronite Patriarch – now “deserves the support of its brothers and friends, necessary to put its capital back on its feet”. According to Patriarch Rai, the most appropriate way to deal with the state of emergency is to set up a “United Nations-controlled fund” to manage aid. “I address you” concluded the Patriarch, “because I know that you love Lebanon and that you will respond to this appeal. I turn to you because I know how much you care that Lebanon regains its historical role at the service of man, democracy, and peace in the Middle East and in the world”.
At the time of the explosion, which devastated Beirut on the afternoon of Tuesday 4 August, the Lebanese, exhausted by the economic crisis and the COVID emergency that had returned to paralyze the country in the last few days, immediately rushed to help their compatriots: doctors and health personnel have opened hospitals and clinics to the many injured, hotel owners have made their facilities available to welcome the displaced people who have fled their destroyed homes. Convents, monasteries, churches, and mosques have done the same. The offices of Caritas Lebanon were also devastated by the explosion.
“This painful tragedy”, reads a statement issued late in the afternoon by the political office of the Shiite Hezbollah Party “and its social, economic, humanitarian and health repercussions” urge all Lebanese, from political forces and all the actors of the Country, to be united in order to overcome this difficult trial”.