No news is good news! Yet, to our dismay, Lebanon is back in the news! As Robert Fisk puts it “Lebanon is always going through the greatest crisis since its last greatest crisis. But this time, it’s for real” [Independent, November 9, 2017]. Sadly so!
Two weeks ago, I left Lebanon upon invitation from friends and partners in Australia and New Zealand to share about our ministry as LSESD, and the opportunities that God is opening before us. I left carrying with me good news of how the Church in our country is serving as the hands and feet of Jesus amongst vulnerable communities. The general environment in Lebanon at the time was rather positive as for the first time since I can ever remember, we have a strong president and prime minister keen on cooperating together with the best interest of Lebanon in mind.
Yet, without any warning, we received with much shock on November 4th the sudden resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced from Saudi Arabia.
The circumstances surrounding Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation, and the mounting suspicion that he’s been placed under house arrest in Saudi Arabia are perceived by the Lebanese government and people as an attack on Lebanon’s sovereignty. I am thankful to God for giving the Lebanese President General Michel Aoun wisdom to directly reach out to the leaders of the various political parties to ensure that the country is not pulled into chaos. Praise God as well that Lebanon that has often been described as a “country divided” seems to have united in response to Saudi Arabia’s strange position, calling in a unified voice on Saudi Arabia for the return of Prime Minister Hariri.
We seek your prayers today for the regional and global powers that be, and which repeatedly attempt to draw Lebanon into a proxy war, that they may just let us be. “ I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Lebanon, has an important and strategic role to play in the region. It is the gateway to the Middle East! And the Church has an invaluable role to play both in Lebanon and beyond. We already see encouraging fruits, outcome of the ministry of compassion that the Church is leading today amongst vulnerable families and individuals affected by the Syria war. We do not want another war in the region, nor can we handle more pain and suffering in our country. Already, one in three people in Lebanon is a refugee.
Today, and directly upon my return to Lebanon, I had the privilege of joining members of our team on a visit to an LSESD/MERATH partner church that provides education for around 300 refugee children, and stands by their families in their hour of need. In fact, this is one of three LSESD/MERATH partner churches in the Bekaa valley serving together over 10,000 individuals. What a blessing to come alongside our partner churches and enable their congregations to grasp the opportunity to be the church in their communities. This is what keeps us going! These three Bekaa Valley churches are amongst a total of around 50 churches in Lebanon and Syria today through whom we partner in our response to the humanitarian needs arising from the raging war in Syria. With God’s grace we keep our eyes focused on the Author and Finisher of our faith, and pursue our mission to be salt and light, carrying hope to the broken and the lost, that they too may lift up their eyes and realize their value in His eyes.
Please pray for our country and for the safety and return of our Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his family. Pray for God’s guidance, strength, and wisdom for the Lebanese President General Michel Aoun as he seeks to protect the sovereignty and stability of Lebanon. Pray for the leaders of the various religiously-affiliated political parties in Lebanon, and others too, that they may remain calm and put Lebanon first. Pray for God’s protection against any plots to bring about havoc and uncertainty in Lebanon again.
Pray as well for our region, and for the leadership of Saudi Arabia where my wife and I spent over ten years of our lives, and where today over 350,000 Lebanese reside and work. Pray for us as LSESD ministries, and for our faithful team that includes around 30 women and men who felt called to leave behind their countries and families to come and join hands with us in our pursuit of a mission to serve the Church.
And last but not least, and as fellow peacemakers and peacekeepers, we urge you to seize every opportunity as our ambassadors to advocate the right of minorities to stay in our region. And in doing so, may you encourage approaches that call for love and peace, not hatred and war, in the Middle East and beyond. Thank you!
Feel free to share this message with others who have a heart for our country and region that they too may join us in prayer. We do not know where the current situation is heading. Just this evening our Prime Minister participated in a TV interview from Saudi Arabia that was not convincing to the Lebanese public, particularly amid what are considered “ambiguous and mysterious” circumstances. Tomorrow, the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi is visiting Saudi Arabia and has requested to meet Prime Minister Hariri. Hopefully, his visit will shed more light on the reality of his situation.
Friends, looking back, Lebanon and the Lebanese have been through tough times before, and with God’s grace, we are hopeful that this too shall pass. God who has brought us this far, will lead us to a safe harbor. We place all these circumstances in the Lord’s hands, and seek His guidance as we continue to focus on the ministry at hand, and on being messengers of peace and hope to the communities that He has called us to serve.
Thank you to all friends and partners who have communicated their concern about what is going on in Lebanon today.
In His grip,
Chief Executive Officer
Lebanese Society for Educational & Social Development (LSESD)
N.B. For more details on the recent events, here are some links:
· Saad Hariri’s resignation as Prime Minister of Lebanon is not all it seems, Independent, November 9th, 2017
· Hariri’s fate in doubt, amid Saudi-Lebanese escalation, The Daily Star, November 10th, 2017
· Case of the Missing Lebanese Prime Minister Stirs Middle East Tensions, The New York Times, November 10th, 2017
· Saudi Arabia forcibly detailed Lebanon’s Prime Minister, The Washington Post, November 10th, 2017
· Aoun calls on Saudi Arabia to clarify delay in Hariri return, The Daily Star, November 11th, 2017
· Lebanon Hariri crisis: President Aoun demands Saudi answers, BBC, November 11th, 2017
November 12th, 2017