Lebanon (MNN) — Today ends the third week of widespread protests in Lebanon. Issues vary, but most people want a complete overhaul of the government. Demonstrators blame current leaders for Lebanon’s economic failure and crumbling infrastructure.
Although the movement is unifying all sectors of Lebanese society, its potential for harm troubles leaders like Nabil Costa. He’s the CEO of LSESD: the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development. “My concern is not directly [for] our ministries only; my concern is [for] our country,” Costa says.
“Lebanon is the only democracy in the region…the only country [where the Christian faith is not a minority]. This is rare in the Middle East and the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa.”
The Church’s role in Lebanon protests
As summarized here by Reuters, Lebanon’s situation has been a long time coming and there’s no easy fix. In September, officials declared a state of economic emergency; national debt surpasses GDP by $35 billion and banks recently imposed restrictions to keep money in the country.
“If this mood prevails and protests continue at the current pace and scale, the country may be in for a prolonged period of unrest. No alternative political leadership or real opposition to the ruling parties exists… Attempts to restore order, for instance by deploying the army, may lead to another flare-up of violence.”
The question is how to balance Lebanon’s stability – a critical factor in the Middle East – with the voice and desire of Lebanese citizens.
According to Costa, the Lebanese Church could play a major role in this process. However, “what’s happening now might affect the voice of the Church and make it less effective,” he says. “When people see you fighting or shouting or hitting… it does not reflect a good image on the Church.”
Through six specialized ministries, LSESD supports the Church in Lebanon and beyond. Learn more about their work here. Costa has been with LSESD for the past 20 years and, with a “home base” in Beirut, he’s familiar with the nation’s challenges.
“Our problem is not persecution now; our problem is created upon… Lebanese requests affected by regional requests. The Church should stand up against manipulating the country. Unfortunately, it is not,” Costa says.
“We have a major role to play [and] we’re not doing it properly.”
How to pray for Lebanon
Pray for individual believers as they balance their Lebanese citizenship with their Christian faith. It’s not always easy. As one Lebanese protestor recently told CNN, “It’s not just about governance. It’s primarily about identity. This is what it means to be Lebanese these days.”
Pray protests will not stop ministry to Lebanon’s vulnerable populations. Ask the Lord to guide and sustain Costa and other members of LSESD staff. “We want to continue helping the kids with special needs. We want to continue teaching the youth of the Middle East in our seminary and sending them back to their countries as missionaries of peace,” Costa says.
“Being diverted into political wars in this country does not help us. So, we need to stand up and we need to watch our steps, to be always faithful to the Great Commandment and not to where our politicians are trying to get us.”
Header image courtesy of Shahen Araboghlian via Wikimedia Commons.