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Maronite priest who lost neighbour in Beirut blast says God can turn their horror into blessing

Seeking solace: A woman prays during Mass at a church in Beirut on August 9.

LEBANESE priest Fr Fadi Salame believes the global response to the deadly August 4 explosion in Beirut is God’s way of blessing the people of Lebanon after years of corruption.

The parish priest of St Maroun’s Church, Greenslopes, said the deadly blast has brought other countries closer to Lebanon, which was already spiralling out of control from economic strife and the coronavirus.

“It’s time to stand next to Lebanon,” Fr Salame said.

“It’s been in corruption since it’s beginning 100 years ago, I think this time should be the end for a lot of things especially the corruption.

“We feel sorry for our country Lebanon.”

The death toll from the catastrophic blast, which was caused by 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port, has exceeded 200 people.

It includes Fr Salame’s friend and childhood neighbour, but there are others still unaccounted for.

“We’re still missing some people and one related to us is still missing so we don’t know what happened to him,” Fr Salame said.

“He’s under the wheat silo, he is still there, maybe he died.”

Fr Salame, who is from the south of Lebanon, said he considered all those who were killed or injured in the explosion as friends and family.

Tragedy: Smouldering debris in Beirut on August 5 following two massive explosions the day before near the port of the Lebanese capital, killing more than 200 people. Photo: CNS

He prayed for them during a Mass on August 6 to mark the Feast of the Transfiguration.

“They’re all our families and friends, it’s not just because of siblings or close relationships,” Fr Salame said.

“They all suffered because of the blast and the explosions.”

During the August 6 Mass, which was attended by Honorary Consul of Lebanon, Antony Torbey and his wife Hana Torbey, Fr Salame asked the faithful to seek God, who could make “good things come from the explosion”.

He said God would forgive those responsible for the harm caused to all of Lebanon.

“We don’t look at the catastrophe of the explosion, or the blast, but that good things can come from the explosion, from people dying and from people suffering from injuries,” Fr Salame said.

“God permits, allow us to do whatever we want as human beings according to our dignity.

“We are free to do whatever we want, but God looks after everything and he will forgive us, he will forgive the people who caused the harm to others.”

Australia’s Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay also released a message on Facebook on the Feast of the Transfiguration, asking how much more the people of Lebanon has to suffer?

“How much more can this nation carry and for how much longer must we, as Gibran Khalil Gibran wrote nearly 100 years ago, continue to ‘Pity the Nation’?” Bishop Tarabay said.

“We continue to believe in the power of prayer and continue to lament and cry out for mercy and peace to the victims, for comfort and consolation to their families, for healing to the wounded and the sick, for freedom for the oppressed and for hope for the suffering people of Lebanon.”

The deadly explosion came at the worst possible time for the Lebanese people.

The country was already suffering from an unprecedented economic crisis, throwing half the population near or below the poverty line, while leaving hundreds of thousands without work.

Then came the coronavirus outbreak, making the economic fallout worse.

Offering hope: Fr Fadi Salame.

The explosion in the nation’s capital, which left a crater 43-metres deep, has now forced thousands into homelessness and will potentially leave the country in a food shortage after it destroyed the silo storing the country’s national grain reserve.

International charities and governments are already sending financial aid to the country.

Australia’s Maronite Eparchy has established a Beirut Disaster Relief Appeal in collaboration with volunteer organisation Maronites on Mission, at maronitesonmisson.com.

All funds will go to families in Beirut in urgent need of financial support, including those who require medical attention and emergency food supplies.

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