Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
In the days following the tragic warehouse explosion in Beirut, local bakeries were baking and sharing free bread by the truckload.
Even before the blast, life was difficult in Lebanon. Political unrest, an ongoing financial crisis, and the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic all contributed to a seemingly impossible situation.
Then, the explosion killed more than 190 people; injured more than 6,500; and left an estimated 300,000 homeless in the Greater Beirut area. The number of injured people and damaged medical facilities put a further strain on the already over-burdened healthcare system. Hospital overcrowding contributed to an escalated spread of disease.
In this challenging time, long-standing denominational partners in Lebanon and the region are working to adapt and meet a wide range of needs. With many refugees in the area from nearby Syria and Palestine, our network of partners have a long history of serving some of the most vulnerable. Now, they are expanding their reach to serve people in need of housing as a result of the explosion; those without access to food or water; as well as those who were injured or lost loved ones. The comprehensive response addresses housing needs, food security, health and hygiene, as well as access to education and employment.
In many ways, the needs seem overwhelming. But Global Ministries Global Mission Intern Leda Zakarison notes all the ways in which people reached out to help their neighbors in the days following the explosion- from donating blood and supplies, to welcoming strangers into their homes and sharing bread.
As Christians from many denominations and traditions prepare to celebrate World Communion Sunday on October 4, the image of sharing bread together in the wake of a crisis is particularly powerful. As Disciples of Christ, communion reminds us that we are part of a larger body; a movement transcending time and space. At the center of this celebration, the table symbolizes our shared faith, which overcomes all kinds of barriers- cultural, geographical, and otherwise.
Peter Makari of Global Ministries shares that some of our partners sustained damage to their own facilities, which they must address while continuing to meet the needs of those affected by the explosion, the financial crisis, and the ongoing pandemic. But, he says, they remain committed to engaging the community and serving those in need, even as they deal with their own challenges. He says it’s a reminder that “a sense of community transcends sectarian lines, and goes beyond helping out only one’s own.” He says that people are truly coming together, working not just to meet immediate needs, but to address the broader, systemic issues that led to the compound disasters in the first place.
This year on World Communion Sunday, more than ever, we are aware of how interconnected this Body is. A global pandemic has shown us that what affects one part affects all of its members; and when one part of our human family suffers, we all suffer. Our interdependence is key to common thriving. In this season of great need, the communion table becomes more than a symbol. Just as we share in the abundance of God, so we are called to share with our whole human family in tangible ways, regardless of barriers.
Through Week of Compassion, your compassion is at work in Lebanon, and in many other places around the world where people are in need. Your support shares the bread of life in many ways, in many places. It is a true communion that gives life, extending the welcome of our table around the world. What better way to celebrate the compassionate way of Christ: on World Communion Sunday, or any day of the year.
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