Since October 7, our news channels and social media feeds have been filled with heartbreaking images of suffering, leaving us grappling with the challenge of maintaining our daily routines. While our hearts break for all those affected by the conflict in Gaza, we pray that it does not escalate and spread into a full-blown war in Lebanon, similar to the war of July 2006. Tension still simmer in the Lebanese southern region, where cross-border shelling persists, occasionally resulting in civilian casualties and damage to crops and property. Over 46,000 people have been displaced from towns and villages near the border and live in constant anxiety, wondering if they will ever go back.
A Much-Needed Sense of Normalcy
For the people of Lebanon and the region, nothing has felt normal in a long time. This new tragedy comes after years of crises and disruptions that have greatly affected people’s lives and taken a toll on their physical, emotional, and mental well-being: the Syrian civil war, economic collapse, the Beirut port explosion, the COVID-19 pandemic, a cholera outbreak, and the devastating earthquakes of February 2023, further deepened people’s anger, despair, and hopelessness.
Children in particular have borne the brunt of these challenges, developing a fear of death while bearing witness to their families’ enduring stress. Months-long school closures disrupted their education over the past years. Some have even been forced to forego schooling, either to work or to enter early marriages to alleviate their families’ financial burdens. In times like these more than ever, children and their parents yearn for the comfort and routine that attending school provides. Through its ministries, THIMAR – LSESD offers psychosocial support and quality Christian education in safe and loving environments to thousands of children. This helps them thrive not only academically but also emotionally and spiritually.
A Thrill of Hope and a Promise of Peace
Our world is increasingly polarized and confrontational. Most issues are oversimplified and devoid of nuance. In many cases, violence and war feel unavoidable, whether in Syria over the past 12 years, in Israel and Gaza at present, or in Lebanon’s future. It can feel as though the pursuit of peace has become a lost cause, requiring a miracle to take even a single step in the right direction.
The good news is that as Christians, we follow the Prince of Peace, and we believe in miracles. At THIMAR – LSESD, we hold a special conviction in the transformative power of Christian education to serve as a beacon of hope.
Our educational work in many locations builds peace within local communities. Beirut Baptist School, for instance, exemplifies coexistence among children of different faiths, while MERATH’s partner education centers break down barriers and prejudices between Lebanese and Syrians, between Christians and Muslims, and sometimes between Syrians themselves.
More importantly, we teach children that true peace – peace with God, peace with oneself, and peace with others – can only be found in Jesus. These children carry Christian values and ethics back to their homes, occasionally leading their entire families to Christ.
Maha is a Syrian refugee mother whose children have been enrolled in a MERATH partner education center: “To this day, the only safe haven for our children has been the church’s learning center. They feel valued, and they love their teachers dearly. Thanks to the support from the church, our faith has increased. We have become very close to Jesus. We are now 100% sure that He is with us and that He listens to our prayers. We trust that God has better plans for us.”