#PillsOfHope: Lebanon Special
By Mona Farhat
As the explosion of global fraternity which is United World Week approaches, Mona, a 36-year-old Lebanese lawyer, has collected these #PillsOfHope, precious stories of fraternity – the “growing forest” – in the Covid-19 era in her own country.
Meals provided … at a distance
In the Covid-19 era, many are suffering from the drastic measures prohibiting people leaving their homes freely to go to the shops, while others don’t have enough money to even dream of shopping. This thought was troubling the “Parainage-Liban” team when the telephone rang. It was a fellow-Lebanese living outside the country, offering to pay for meals for a whole month for ten families experiencing poverty. They responded immediately, forging a chain of solidarity and help, finding a cook, assistants, and a team of volunteers to deliver the meals.
After the first delivery, one of the team, Lena, received a call from another family in serious financial distress. How could they help? The only option would be to divide the prepared food between 11 families instead of 10. But no. Out of the blue, they received a call from a donor who wanted to join in and help, so they could immediately supply hot meals to an eleventh family for the month.
It’s amazing how punctually Providence always arrives. And it’s moving to see that help is still arriving from Italy, despite the difficult health crisis they are experiencing themselves.
The widow’s mite
Since the outbreak, many have not only been forced to accept drastic lockdown measures, but also to cope with an unprecedented financial crisis. Often families who were already struggling to manage, now find one or more of them has lost their job.
It’s in moments like this we need to feel part of a big family. This is what happened to a couple who attend a local Word of Life group, organized by the Focolare Movement. In a recent meeting, they revealed they had not been able to pay the rent for over two months. All the members of the group, despite having few financial resources between them, contributed to a communion of goods, including another couple who were actually really struggling. To the joy of all, at the end they saw that the money collected totalled exactly the amount of the outstanding rent.
But it didn’t end there. You can imagine the reaction when that second couple who had helped out while not even having enough for themselves, heard another sum of money had arrived for them, even though they hadn’t asked for anything. The widow’s mite is always worth the most in the divine economy.
Art crossing distances
Musicians around the world are finding ways to offer moments of harmony and beauty through performances recorded in isolation, making creative use of available technologies.
A Lebanese orchestra wanted to give encouragement to the sick, to medical personnel and all those in quarantine. The Notre-Dame Collège Orchestra of Jamhour, near Beirut, comprising 40 musicians and singers, offered the Lebanese public, and beyond, a rendition of Fairuz’ beautiful song «Imani Sateh» (“My Faith Shines”). Every member of the orchestra participated from their own homes, producing a performance worthy of the grandest concert hall.
On the feast day of the Annunciation, which is a national holiday in Lebanon, we had the joy of listening to a virtual performance of the magnificent hymn «Couronnée d’étoiles», dedicated to the Virgin Mary, mother of humanity and Queen of all nations.
Mary, celebrated by Muslims and Christians
We recognize so many links between Christians and Muslims. Here in Lebanon groups from Muslim and Christian communities celebrated the feast day of the Annunciation together, on 25 March, a national holiday since 2010. Over a hundred people from Lebanon, Algeria and the Netherlands linked together via Zoom. They started with a moment of prayer and sharing, in which one participant, Fatima reflected, “Today we are celebrating Mary, the one who calls us to purity, holiness, patience at time of trials, and faith in the love of God who overcomes every evil. This is why we had to celebrate this feast day of the Annunciation together, especially at this time when we feel the need to shake each other’s hands to encourage each other …
But as the way of love and light is a way of truth, even in the virtual world, we decided to connect together to pray not only for ourselves and our own country, but for the whole world, sure that God will grant our prayer. The Gospel of Matthew promised, “Ask and it will be given to you, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you”. And in the Surah Al-Baqarah, Quran 2/186 it is written “And when My servants ask you, concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided”».
This introduction was followed by a video on the Annunciation as told in the Quran, and the Angelus prayer was recited.
A reflection written by Italian journalist Michele Zanzucchi helped the participants to perceive a new perspective on the events everyone is living through. In conclusion, the group listened to a magnificent Christian-Muslim rendition of the Ave Maria by Tania Kassis, Mazen Zakaria and Mahmoud Massaad, which united hearts in perfect communion.
The celebration concluded at 7pm, carrying candles onto balconies to join in the moment of shared Christian-Muslim “Marian invocation” prayer promoted by the ADYAN Foundation.
Afterwards, everyone felt truly grateful, having experienced a shared moment of grace in this time of trial.