It’s been 4 days!
We were having our annual retreat, meditating psalm 129, “out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”. I was in my room, repeating this verse over and over when the door started shaking, silence for 3 seconds followed by an uproarious sound of thunder for more than 10 seconds. Silence. I was nailed to my chair for a minute, remembering the bombardment sounds from my childhood during civil war. I refused to believe my mind. I got out of my room, went down to the TV room and saw all the Sisters in silence, tears filling their eyes, listening to the breaking news: explosion in Beirut port! We were all in Bikfaya, safe and sound, almost 40 km far from Beirut.
That night, we went to our community house and school in Fanar on a hill up looking the port, all windows shattered but janitors unharmed. The next day, I accompanied our sisters to Baabda to check on our community, another blessing, no damage. We then decided to go on site of the explosion. Words can never explain what our eyes witnessed. We drove slowly through the streets of Beirut… silently. Reaching the port area, everything was grey, thousands of people, all in silence. We were all looking at our capital city as if we were looking to a corpse inside the coffin. Total silence. My heart skipped a beat, deep breath. I wasn’t able to cry nor speak! Total destruction, I was walking in the valley of death!
The next day, along with 30 youth from the Eucharistic Youth Movement and scouts from our school in Jounieh, we went to the valley of death and witnessed how God is with us! Thousands of youth from all over the country were carrying brooms, shovels and buckets and cleaning the streets. All houses had their doors wide open, cause of the explosion, as if welcoming all passerby’s to come in. No one was asking how to help or who to help. We just go into any house and start cleaning. When house owners were found in their homes, they greet us with a smile and kindly ask for help. Then they start telling how it happened and what they felt, we simply listen and cannot but hide our rage and anger to comfort them and give them hope. Walking down the streets of Beirut, you see all people working together, regardless of religion and beliefs, regardless of an endless separation between cities caused by the corrupt political regime for years. Anyone could join any group in cleaning, making new friends, knowing people and their stories.
The shattering explosion gathered all Lebanese together. In the city of Beirut today, no one is hungry or thirsty. Wherever you go, NGO’s and church groups have built their tents and prepared food for all people. Anyone can reach and take a bottle or a pack of water bottles. University students changed their campuses into kitchens and a place to collect food, clothes and furniture. In the middle of an unseen economic crisis in the history of Lebanon, the Lebanese people resemble to the widow at the temple, giving all they have, and God is seeing how out of our poverty, we are putting in all we have to live on!
I cannot not feel anger within me, how to forgive? How can we forgive those stealing peoples’ lives, dreams, pasts, presents and futures? How can we forgive those, who are so called responsible, not checking up on the people? How can we have hope? But out of our depths, we are crying to the Lord and He is attentive to our cry! God is greater and in this lies our faith!
More than 130 dead, 5000 injured, hundreds missing and up to 300,000 people lost their homes! This is Lebanon today. In this reality, as Sisters of the Holy Family, we are called to witness and to give life! We came into action, each one as she can through prayer, raising funds, giving food and furniture and through helping in the cleaning of streets and homes. Our country can’t bleed any longer for there is no more blood to shed! We are painfully waiting for salvation.
Help is needed in all means!
Pray for us, pray for all those who lost their dear ones, their homes, part of their bodies, their dreams. Pray for all the people giving all they have to help others, they are God’s presence in our world. This may not be our battle, but just like God told Jehoshaphat, we will stand firm, face this evil and give thanks to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20, 15-21).
Sr. Myriam Salameh – Lebanon