Yesterday, on Tuesday, March 4, Shrove Tuesday, Development and Peace members, supporters and employees gathered at the Centre for Sustainable Development for the Montreal launch of the “One human family, food for all” Share Lent campaign. Bishop Faddoul, Apostolic Exarch of Western and Central Africa for the Maronites and president of Caritas Lebanon, as well as Dr. Rita Rhayem, Director of Health for Caritas Lebanon were both guests of honour of Development and Peace.
Bishop Faddoul began the meeting by reminding us of the serious humanitarian crisis facing the region because of the Syrian conflict. He shared that fact that despite the difficulties, “Pope Francis is on our side, giving us more strength to do our work.” He gave a deeply moving account of the current situation that has been worsening over the three years since the war in Syria began. So far, 3 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. He specified that the massive influx of refugees has had a major impact on Lebanese society, because Lebanon has received 36% of all Syrian refugees in the region. Bishop Faddoul reminded us that especially during Lent, we must remember that “where people suffer, God weeps.”
Dr. Rita Rhayem then presented the project that provides medical aid to Syrian refugees funded by Development and Peace. Through this project, 40,661 families have received medical support, with 329,930 medical services provided in 2013. The refugees fled without any of their possessions and live in Lebanon in very vulnerable conditions, sometimes in regions that are difficult to access. Mobile clinics provide health care to the most vulnerable refugees (injured people, elderly people and pregnant women) and provide them with the information and support they need. As well, many refugees suffer from psychological distress and it is important that they are treated by specialized staff who they can trust. Dr. Rhayem told the moving story of a Syrian mother who is a teacher, who fled with her family to Lebanon. She did not understand why, but she found herself beating her children for no reason. Through sessions with a Caritas Lebanon psychotherapist, she received a diagnosis of stress related to the trauma she had endured, and was able to receive help. Dr. Rhayem emphasized the importance of caring for refugees, which also preserves the health of local communities, since certain illnesses are becoming prevalent in Lebanon, which had long disappeared from the country.
Rita Rhayem is one of several guest speakers from the global South who have been invited to present the programs they lead in their countries that are supported by Development and Peace. She will now head to Alberta to speak at a variety of events organized by the members of Development and Peace there.
The launch was full of poignant stories and inspiration. But it was also Mardi Gras, the last day before the beginning of Lent. According to tradition, we celebrate, we sing, we dance, but mostly we eat. It is our last chance to eat fattening food before Lent. So on the occasion of this launch, donuts were sold on site which raised $850. For dessert, all participants were able to enjoy delicious pancakes with apricot jam and maple syrup. This day of sharing definitely ended on a sweet note.
On the eve of Ash Wednesday, it was good to share a last meal with our one human family. Click here to see some pictures of the event.
Donations in support of this campaign can be made by phone at 1 888 234-8533 or online at www.devp.org.