‘Adopt a family’ of Christian refugees in Lebanon this Christmas

MJV 9729 1 Lebanese Christian children meet St. Nicholas during a 2018 gift drive by St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy. | SRMHM.

As Lebanon's economic crisis worsens, a Lebanese priest is asking for people to spiritually and charitably adopt a persecuted Christian refugee family this Christmas season.

"Imagine that for the last 4-6 years there were more than 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a nation that is only about 4 million people," Fr. Andre Sebastian Mahanna told CNA. 

On Dec. 14, Fr. Mahanna's apostolate, St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy, will provide a Christmas dinner and concert for 4,500 families of refugees from Syria and Iraq at which 2,500 children will receive Christmas gifts.

The Christmas gift and good drive will be hosted by Chaldean Archbishop Michael Kassargi of Beirut. The mission will also provide 100 families with emergency medical insurance coverage through the Center of Our Lady of Hope Medical Center in Beirut.

"In this Christmas season, adopt a family in your prayer. Pray for a family so that a father and a mother who cannot afford food at the table, who cannot afford medicine for their children or for themselves, they cannot afford the livelihood of paying rent, pray for their concrete livelihood," Fr. Mahanna urged.

With a $50 donation, one can "Adopt a Family" of refugees, which in turn also helps ease the burden on Lebanon's infrastructure and helps "support the Lebanese people until the political situation and that human crisis of the refugees is settled," Mahanna explained. 

Lebanon is facing a critical moment in which it risks becoming a failed state, Mahanna said. Anti-government protests forced the former prime minister Saad Hariri to resign six weeks ago, and the government remains billions of dollars in debt.

"The crisis has now drained the entire banking system, private investors cannot withdraw their money. If I have money in the bank, you cannot find the actual dollar currency in any of the Lebanese territories. The ATM machines are not giving money out to people, and you cannot go even to your own account and withdraw money more than let's say $1,000 per month in some places $400 per month in other places," the priest said.

"We need the help of the international community to maintain the stability, some economic foundation in Lebanon so that we protect the private investors, we protect the Lebanese citizens … in such a way that the government will not fall," he said.

"If the government falls, you are going to have two fanatic groups, unfortunately just like what happened in Syria, just like what happened in Iraq, they will be on the rise and kill each other. As a collateral damage, Christians always pay the cost," he explained.

Fr. Mahanna asked for prayers for Lebanon to remain a stronghold for dialogue and a model of coexistence between people from different religious groups. 

The St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy's Christmas celebrations will continue at epiphany when the mission will distribute gifts at the Bird's News Orphanage in Byblos, Lebanon on Jan. 6, 2020.

The Syrian Civil War left an estimated 100,000 children orphaned. Gifts will also be distributed to the orphans cared for by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the Ephraimites Sisters in Harissa, Lebanon. 

"I'm so proud of the churches in Lebanon," Mahanna said. "They have doubled their attendance in the afternoon. They cook, they wrap sandwiches. We send as a Mission of Hope and Mercy on a monthly basis for the Christian refugees. We send 200 hygiene supply kits every month. We send 200 food boxes every month, and now for Christmas we send 2,500 Christmas gifts."

"We stand in solidarity and in support with these people who really are in dire need," he said.

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