.- Lebanon is the last hope for Christianity in the Middle East - that was the message from a Lebanese priest speaking recently at an event in support of the suffering Church.
In an emotional talk about his country of origin, Father Samer Nassif told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) benefactors and supporters at St Joseph’s Church in Cardiff that all across the Middle East, Christians see Lebanon as a bastion of hope. “Everyone in the Middle East is looking to the Lebanon,” Fr. Nassif explained. “Ours is the only free and flourishing Christian community in their midst. If we can’t hold our place in the Middle East, which Christians can?”
Fr Nassif said that Christianity in Lebanon remained strong despite widespread emigration. The priest, who works for ACN’s French branch, said that out of Lebanon’s entire population of some 4.4 million, about 3.5 million are Lebanese by birth, half of which are Christians. He added that, due to emigration, the Lebanese diaspora totals some 16 million, about 80 percent of which are Christians.
Many Lebanese Christians belong to the Maronite Catholic Rite. Others are split among Orthodox Churches and other Rites united to the Roman Church. A small portion of Lebanese are also Protestant.
According to Fr Nassif, approximately 300 Christian villages were destroyed between 1983 and 1985, during the war in Lebanon. In his diocese of Saida, Fr. Nassif said, 50 parishes were demolished.
“In spite of all the horrors that we saw and lived,” he said, “like Christ on the cross, we forgave.”