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Update from Jesuit works in Beirut

  • 7 August 2020
JRS MENA

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA has begun the process of recovery from the massive explosion in Beirut on 4th August.  Thankfully, all JRS staff are safe and accounted for.  Many received cuts and scrapes, but there were no serious injuries.  I am very sorry to share that two of the beneficiaries of the JRS centre in Burj Hammoud were killed by the explosion and one remains listed as missing.  We are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers. 

JRS regional offices, country offices, and the Burj Hammoud social centre and school were all badly damaged.  They have started the process of cleaning and assessing the damage.  

So far, at least 135 people have been killed and over 5,000 have been injured by this explosion which was felt as far away as Cyprus.  JRS regional, country offices and the Burj Hammoud program are each about 1.5 Km from the center of the explosion.  

This explosion came at a time of significant social and economic turmoil in Lebanon, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.  These have complicated recovery efforts.  

This has been a difficult experience for everyone, but particularly for those who have already fled war and conflict.  JRS social workers and psychologists have already begun hearing these difficulties.  Buildings will be repaired more easily than the human wounds.  The work of accompaniment now will be the long-term healing that is necessary for human flourishing.  

Our friends at JRS MENA thank you for your concern and support.  As they accompany the most vulnerable in Lebanon, they are grateful for all of their partners and will rely on the generosity of donors.  

Their immediate plan is to expand the basic needs distribution that they had already been doing for COVID-19 relief.  Those basic needs (food, hygiene, housing) will be even more important now.  They are considering other longer-term options as well.  

JRS MENA especially want to thank their friends in JRS Syria  who sent a beautiful photo of support (above) to the JRS Lebanon team.  They are all very grateful for this beautiful example of solidarity!

Jesuit Residence

A resident at the Jesuit community in Beirut, Nader Michel SJ, wrote:

‘ [At] around 6:00 p.m. local time, we saw and heard a very loud explosion not far from our residence.  A big black smoke rose to the sky, the whole building was shaken, the windows blown out, the doors ripped open, the false ceiling on the floor.

A scene of desolation and massive destruction everywhere in our 11-storey residence.  Also, the community and St. Gregory’s College were heavily damaged.  Thank God we only had two minor injuries.

More than 100 people were killed and 4,000 injured.  The hospital, Hôtel-Dieu de France run by the University of Saint Joseph, did not stop treating the wounded; in the corridors, the doctors were stitching up stitches.  Buildings of the university and the hospital were badly damaged.

Everywhere in Beirut, one sees shattered windows, streets littered with glass, and one hears only the sirens of the ambulances and the noise of cleaning broken windows.  The city is in shock.  People were already suffering under the weight of a very serious political and economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic that was spreading, and now a wave of destruction and demolition is descending upon them.’

The people of Beirut face the dual challenge of rebuilding their lives and tackling a pandemic. You can donate to our Lebanon Appeal here

Photo credit: JRS MENA and Jesuits in Europe. 

Based on updates provided by JRS MENA and Jesuits in Europe.