The Beirut blast that killed 160 people adds to the suffering of Christians who already face food shortages and social unrest due to the corona virus crisis, aid workers say. Their warnings came shortly before the government resigned Monday amid public outcry over the explosion, triggered by ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the Beirut port.
Residents expressed anger over revelations that Lebanese officials knew for years that 2,750 tons of the highly explosive chemical were kept at the warehouse. Besides those killed, there were thousands injured and hundreds of thousands made homeless, according to Christian aid workers familiar with the situation.
Last week’s blast ”particularly affected East Beirut’s Christian neighborhoods, damaging churches, and Christian ministries, with many Christians amongst the injured, homeless and dead,” explained Christian aid group, Barnabas Fund, in a statement to Worthy News. “Many Christians are in desperate need following the explosion. Urgent needs are food, medicines, and accommodation.”
Complicating the situation for Christians is evidence that the blast “also destroyed the grain silos at the port, where most of the country’s supplies of wheat were stored,” Barnabas Fund added. “Bread is the staple food in Lebanon. Another terrible blow is the loss of huge stores of medicines, housed near the place of the explosion.”
Barnabas Fund said it would send immediate aid to Christians through “existing project partners” in Lebanon. The group also appealed for donations and prayers for the needs of Lebanon’s troubled Christian community.
“The world’s heart goes out to Lebanon, as this latest affliction falls on a country hosting 1.5 million refugees and plummeting into economic meltdown,” noted Barnabas Fund. It cited reports that some 20 percent of Lebanon’s 5.5 million people “are already malnourished.” And “as the injured and homeless are dispersed from Beirut across this small and fragile country, the tragedy in the capital is spreading to affect every part.”
France was among many nations providing or pledging aid to Lebanon, prompting French President Emmanuel Macron’s lightning visit to Beirut over the weekend. Confronted by a distraught woman in a sea of enraged residents, the French leader wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic offered her a hug.
Touring the destruction, Macron saw fury toward the Lebanese leadership, widely blamed for corruption and neglect that critics claim allowed the blast to occur.
Reporters witnessed how a large crowd gathered around Macron chanting anti-government slogans. “You are sitting with warlords. They have been manipulating us for the past year,” shouted the woman, wearing a mask. Macron, also wearing a mask, assured her he understood her concerns. “I’m not here to help them. I’m here to help you,” he said.
The crowd cheered as moments later, Macron comforted the woman with a warm embrace. France once governed Lebanon as a protectorate and maintains a close relationship with the tiny Middle Eastern nation.