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Focus

on the world of CNEWA

by John E. Kozar

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Lebanon is a tiny country, one of the smallest in the world — in fact, the entire country is roughly the size of my home diocese of Pittsburgh. But don’t let the geographic size fool you: Lebanon has a huge heart.

During the past four years, Lebanon has opened her borders to almost one and a half million refugees from Syria, victims of a war that seems to have no end. But this by no means marks the beginning of Lebanon’s role in welcoming displaced peoples. Many years earlier she welcomed huge numbers of Palestinians, Armenians, Iraqis, Egyptians and others.

There are two pieces to this story that need to be highlighted. One is that the economy of Lebanon has chronically been challenged or strained with lack of infrastructure — electricity, fuel, industrial development, etc. — even as she has welcomed “foreigners” to find peace and comfort within her borders.

The other, perhaps more striking reality is that Lebanon has reflected so beautifully the mandate of Christ to love our neighbors, even our enemies, as God loves us.

Consider that Syria was for many years an invader in Lebanon, with thousands of Syrian soldiers patrolling and controlling the society there. Now, in the midst of an ugly war in Syria, the Lebanese are humbly asked, especially by church leaders, to reach down into their hearts and offer sanctuary, respite, safety, health care, schooling and jobs to thousands and thousands of former occupiers, Syrian refugees.

Some Lebanese have shared with me how they recognize refugees now sheltered in Lebanon as former occupiers, some of whom even mistreated or persecuted the local people.

An additional part of this heroic display of Christian fraternity and solidarity with the displaced poor, Christian and non-Christian alike, is that the indigenous poor of Lebanon have become poorer and have even themselves been marginalized with the influx of so many refugees.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the church and the people of Lebanon for their example of serving our poor brothers and sisters, even our “enemies.”

CNEWA expresses our thanks and our gratitude to the Lebanese by offering accompaniment and support to the church, in the form of many programs that directly reach out to refugees, to people displaced, people in transit and to the local poor.

We pray for peace in the area, for prosperity and that Christians will now and forever bring the face of Jesus to all, even those who have mistreated us.

May God continue to bless you as a member of the CNEWA family and as members of the extended family of the Lebanese faithful.

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