“Lebanon’s political leaders need to end their association with Hezbollah. The U.S. won’t achieve this end by withholding aid to blast victims,” the official told CNA.
Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians, told CNA it is crucial for American relief funds to go directly to local NGOs and not through the Lebanese government due to its corruption and ties to Hezbollah.
“We want to make sure that people on the ground are receiving the aid and rebuilding their homes,” Baaklini said, adding that he thinks the administration is committed to finding the best way of getting aid “directly to the people.”
Baaklini said he hopes the aid comes through soon because “the winter season is coming.”
Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn told CNA in an interview that following the blast “the need is great.”
“We don’t want to lose the special character of Lebanon,” if Christians are forced by circumstance to leave, Mansour said.
“It’s very clear to every Christian of the Middle East: outside of Lebanon they are minorities,” he added. “They don’t have those freedoms in other parts of the Middle East.”
Mansour said he thinks the administration seems “to understand the importance of helping Lebanon even though Hezbollah is present in the government.”
“They’ve been very careful; nobody wants to fund a government that has close ties to Hezbollah, I don’t blame them,” Mansour said. “But at the same time, they haven’t let the good people of Lebanon feel like they have to swim on their own.”
Marc Malek, the founder of Conquest Capital Group and an advocate for Lebanese Christians, said the matter is of great importance to Lebanese Americans and Christians in the United States.
“We’ve been trying to make a push here as Christians and Lebanese Americans to dedicate some of that money for shelter,” Malek said, arguing that in some cases a small refurbishment can make a home damaged by the blast habitable again.
(Story continues below)
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Robert Nicholson, president and executive director of The Philos Project, told CNA that he would urge a “robust response to the crisis in Lebanon.”
“There’s actually an opportunity in Lebanon to do some of these things we could never have accomplished in other countries,” Nicholson said, pointing to the country’s “historical, cultural, and religious connection to the West.”
Nicholson called for a “creative and strategic” response to the crisis, “using our dollars to help our friends.”
“There is a way for the US government to spend our aid—which we should give—but to do it in a way that actually advances our mission in the country, which is to raise up the good guys and disempower the bad guys,” Nicholson said. “We need to be clever.”