Mennonites work for peace in war-torn Lebanon

By staff writers
December 27, 2006

The peace churches that together constitute the North American relief and development agency Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) are putting money and effort into post-war reconstruction in the Lebanon. But what is most required is an end to the conflict that has fuelled human misery in recent months, its on-the-ground partners say.

"What they really need is peace," declared Barkman Azar, a former MCC country representative in Lebanon, after completing her 10-week assignment in the country at the end of last month.

One of Mennonite Central Committee’s local partners, the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA), has incorporated distribution of MCC’s material aid into a peace education training programme for youth.

"This is an exciting blend of providing emergency assistance and working at issues relating to conflict and peace," noted Barkman Azar.

The country, she explained, is still reeling from the 34-day war last summer that resulted in the death of nearly 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 157 Israelis, mainly soldiers. Many schools destroyed during the war have not yet been rebuilt and farm fields are still littered with cluster bombs.

Roughly, one million residents of south Lebanon, nearly a quarter of the country's population, were displaced and took shelter in the mountains and the north. Most families, she added, have returned to their home villages. People whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged are renting homes or living with family members.

Families with school age children living in villages where many schools were destroyed have either not returned home or found schools for their children in neighbouring villages.

"Their resilience is amazing but the war has taken its toll," said Barkman Azar. "Those families whose primary source of income was destroyed in the conflict have been reluctant to commit new financial resources and energy into re-establishing their farms or businesses. They wonder if the ceasefire will hold and are worried by the sectarian tensions in the country."

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