By Jessica Easthope
Lebanese Americans in Brooklyn feel like a devastating blast was the final straw for such a beautiful country already in the midst of an economic downfall and refugee crisis. Maronite Catholics say the explosion is the latest in a long line of betrayals by the government.
“There were letters from people in charge to the government, let’s do something about these explosive materials, do something and no one was able to do anything,” said Father Dominique Hanna, the Director of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn.
On August 4, the explosion in the country’s capital killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more. Though they were miles from the blast, in the Beirut suburbs, Fr. Hanna’s sister and her two children had to run for their lives.
“My niece was saying mom ran and she took us into the corridor to take shelter but uncle you had to see it was a big mushroom shape and there was smoke and it was red and yellow and we were very scared,” said Fr. Hanna.
Father Hanna offered his morning Mass August 5 for the victims of the explosion and the people of Lebanon.
“Our hometown is almost 25 miles north of the city, 4,000 feet above sea level and glass shattered there, that’s how bad it was, it’s devastating,” said Joseph Elkallassy, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lebanon.
Devastated by the scenes of his country, Joseph took off from work, Wednesday, to attend mMass with his family. He says even those who didn’t experience loss of life are now losing hope.
“Between the coronavirus, plus there is a very bad economic situation there and it’s adding insult to injury,” Joseph said.
The timing of the blast is devastating: Lebanon is struggling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and is the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis. Currently, 45 percent of the country lives below the poverty line. Tuesday’s blast has left more than 300,000 people homeless, creating a new financial burden for the country.
Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn says Lebanon will be reliant on the help of others.
“The only way that they can survive is for the wealthy to open their hearts, the wealthy in the country and the wealthy in the diaspora to once again assist the poor,” said Bishop Mansour.
But Bishop Mansour says he has no doubt this horrific event will bring out the best in the Lebanese people.
“They’re all helping their families and now they’ll be helping different institutions, that’s the beauty of Lebanon,” said Bishop Mansour.
A prayer service and collection for Lebanon and the victims of the Beirut explosion will be held on Tuesday, August 25 at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Lebanon in Brooklyn Heights.