Mennonites respond to massive Lebanese humanitarian needs
In response to the deepening humanitarian crisis in Lebanon, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been increasing its financial assistance to help people who have been displaced by the war ñ writes Gladys Terichow for the North American aid agency.
MCCís emergency response in Lebanon and Gaza has been increased by 100,000 US dollars to 166,000 dollars, said Rick Janzen, a director of Mennonite Central Committeeís (MCC) programmes in the Middle East and Europe.
Meanwhile, on the political and diplomatic front today, the United States and France have been revising a draft Lebanon ceasefire resolution, after Arab states appealed to the United Nations to help break the logjam and end the violence.
About 250,000 Lebanese have found refuge in other countries, says MCCís Janzen. More than 750,000 displaced people are living in parks, churches and schools. Many people, unable to escape, live amidst the rubble of their bombed towns and villages.
In addition to dealing with the loss of homes, villages, businesses, farms, bridges, roads and airports, people in Lebanon are dealing with the ultimate griefóthe death of family and friends.
A report issued last week by the Lebanese Higher Relief Committee - a government agency coordinating response to the crisis - reports 887 deaths and 2,890 injured.
Deaths, injuries and destruction are also continuing in Gaza. The Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem reports that 141 people, including 30 children were killed in Gaza the last three weeks. Seventy-six homes were demolished.
"The implications are long term and far-reaching," said Janzen. "Even if the shootings and bombings stopped today the effects will last for years."
The massive damage to bridges and roads have left entire communities in south Lebanon inaccessible. This damage, said Janzen, poses long term challenges for the people, as well as for MCC and other humanitarian agencies.
Mennonite Central Committeeís emergency relief efforts in Lebanon are being coordinated by Bassam Chamoun, a local staff member who has worked for MCC since 1985. MCCís country directors, Ken and Kass Seitz, were scheduled for a home leave and left Lebanon in July 2006 as part of the evacuation of US citizens.
MCC works closely with other organizations to support displaced people in Lebanon. One of these organizations is the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA), an organization that supports children, adolescents, youth, women and people with special needs.
"After three weeks of the Israel attack on Lebanon, the displaced people from all over the south are still coming to Saida where the density of population reached the maximum," comments a recent report from DPNA.
ìThe whole situation is getting complicated. Day after day the needs are increasing on all levels. DPNA is responsible now for three centres where more than 3,000 people are living. In addition we are trying our best to serve the displaced people in other centers at Saida, Jezine and the surrounding villages.î
With assistance from MCC and other agencies DPNA has distributed food, milk, diapers, mattresses, cleaning supplies and practical assistance, such as wheelchairs, canes and hearing equipment, for people with special needs.
Like UK-based Christian Aid and many other European and American church organisations, MCC also works with the Middle East Council of Churches, which is a member of the global ecumenical alliance, Action by Churches Together (ACT).
[Also on Ekklesia: World church leaders strongly condemn Middle East violence 08/08/06; Tony Blair phones Christian Aid director about Lebanon crisis 08/08/06; Hundreds of thousands march against the war in Lebanon 06/08/07 Cana mayor describes bombing horror and calls for Christian support 06/08/05; End this blind faith in violence, says WCC leader 04/08/06; Church group goes directly to Beirut to call for a ceasefire 03/08/06; Development agencies petition Tony Blair for an immediate ceasefire 02/08/06; Unite for MidEast peace, say US Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and Jews 01/08/07; Lebanon destruction a 'crime against humanity' says aid group 30/07/06; No way to security through fighting, says Holy Land bishop 29/07/06; Blair to press Bush for ceasefire as churches push for peace 28/07/06; Israel sees ceasefire hesitancy as a green light for its Lebanon bombing 27/07/06; Mennonites call on USA and Canada to pursue non-violent alternatives 27/07/06; Christian groups urge Blair to back ceasefire calls 26/07/06; South African churches propose bold Middle East conflict transformation process 26/07/06; Why violence cannot solve Lebanon or Gaza Strip showdowns 24/07/06; Christian Aid emergency appeal swings into action 24/07/06; Mennonites issue action alert on Middle East crisis 24/07/06; Middle East churches document and condemn Lebanon horror 23/07/06; US churches appeal to Bush as Israel seizes Lebanese village 23/07/06; Aid agencies say Blair must call for immediate Middle East ceasefire 22/07/06; WCC urges churches to support Middle East appeals 21/07/06; Churches redouble efforts and prayers for an end to Middle East hostilities 21/07/06; Williams laments Lebanon vicious spiral of violence 20/07/06; Gaza, Israel and Lebanon crises are imperiling Middle East security 19/07/06; Historic Galilee sites hit by rocket attacks 18/07/06; Pope condemns Lebanon raids as G8 converges and Blair blames Iran and Syria 17/07/06; Christians call for end to Lebanon violence as Israel vows revenge 16/07/06; Middle East Christians in anguish over Lebanon violence 14/07/06; Embattled Hezbollah backs Iraq 'doves of peace'; Christian warnings substantiated as Israel targets Hamas; Ex-spy wages peace on terror in the Middle East]