THOUSANDS of people who lost their homes, their possessions and their loved ones when 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded at Beirut’s port will soon receive a message of hope from Queensland.
Maronite priest Fr Fadi Salame, who lost a relative and a childhood neighbour in the devastating blast on August 4, filled a truck on September 1 filled with what he called “a message of hope to Lebanon”.
Inside the truck were hundreds of boxes of food, clothes, soap, medicine, blankets, baby formula and nappies, and even washing detergent, destined for the thousands of displaced Lebanese who lost all they had in the blast.
Fr Salame, who is parish priest of St Maroun’s Church, Greenslopes, put a call out to his parishioners and followers on Facebook to donate items to give to Sydney-based charity, Humans Unite.
The charity is planning on sending at least six shipping containers full of basic necessities that will go directly to people in need of special medication, food and other supplies.
Fr Salame said he had received donations from people all over Brisbane and the Gold Coast who are still hurting for their families and loved ones in Lebanon.
“They’re feeling how much you hurt when you lose a lot of things and you don’t have any materials, any food sometimes, especially with this situation,” Fr Salame said.
“So we’re donating, giving hope, sending a message of hope from Brisbane to Beirut and to Lebanese people that we are here standing next to you.
“All around the world people are working very hard to give some message of hope to Lebanon.”
Fr Salame is suffering too – he learnt on social media that a childhood friend had been killed in the blast.
Later his family also received confirmation that a relative had been found dead near Lebanon’s largest wheat silo, which was located near where the explosive ammonium nitrate detonated.
Several people are still missing from the blast.
Fr Salame said he could not accept anymore donations but encouraged people to continue giving to the fundraising appeal established by the Maronite Diocese of Australia.
The appeal has raised more than $380,000 to date.
While Fr Salame is praying that more donations pour in for those in his home country impacted by the blast, he is also asking for his prayers for another personal intention – to build a new, larger church for the growing Maronite community in Brisbane.
The new church is the culmination of 32 years of planning and prayers.
“The plan now is to build a new church, to make it a proper church now, and have a proper hall and carpark for 51 cars, to move the cars from the street, and to have a childcare for our kids,” Fr Salame told The Catholic Leader.
“We’re doing it for the future of our Church.”
Last month the parish community submitted to Brisbane City Council their application for Development Approval to build a new church, hall, carpark and childcare centre.
The new church would accommodate the parish’s growing congregation, which at Mass times is known to spill beyond the church, often next to the external speakers, and sometimes on to the street.
The proposed church development would involve a demolition and partial demolition of some of the existing character dwellings situated on the land occupied by St Maroun’s, which includes the residence of Fr Salame and his family of six.
All properties listed in the proposal are under the ownership of Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay and Fr Salame as trustees.
The proposed plans were made public in early August just days after the Beirut blast.
Fr Salame encouraged anyone who supported the development of a new Maronite church to make a submission to the Brisbane City Council.
To view the parish’s development application visit https://pdonline.brisbane.qld.gov.au/masterviewUI/modules/ApplicationMaster/default.aspx?page=wrapper&key=A005412755.