Lebanon (MNN) — Saudi Arabia and four neighboring countries are banning Lebanese produce after massive drug seizures.
On April 23, Saudi authorities seized millions of amphetamine pills concealed in a shipment of pomegranates from Lebanon. A day prior, Greek authorities intercepted a shipment of cannabis en route from Lebanon to Slovakia following tips from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Beirut tweeted that his country had seized more than 600 million narcotic pills and hundreds of kilograms of hashish smuggled from Lebanon over the last six years. Reports from Arab News and The Jerusalem Post point to Hezbollah as the primary driver behind Lebanon’s drug smuggling.
“Drugs have always been an issue in Lebanon. It’s an ‘under the table’ issue,” Heart for Lebanon’s Tom Atema says.
“Lebanon’s a very conservative country, and it’s an honor/shame culture, so you don’t talk about these kinds of issues, but it is a growing problem.”
Produce exports to the Gulf states account for 55-percent of this sector’s trade, The National reports. The loss comes at a difficult time. Over half of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty due to the country’s multilayered crisis. See our full Lebanon coverage here.
“This is my 20th year going to Lebanon,” Atema says, describing an atmosphere very different than the one he experienced during his first visit in 1991.
“You can feel the country in freefall. But on the other side of the coin, this has opened up another whole group of people that are passionately seeking answers and seeking Jesus.”
The people of Lebanon, whether residents or refugees, are tired of the status quo. “They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they’re saying, ‘there’s got to be something better,’” Atema says.
“Even Muslims are done with their religion. One person told me, ‘It’s empty. There’s nothing to it. Can you help me understand who Jesus is? Because I keep hearing this [name].”
Pray Heart for Lebanon staff will be bold and courageous as they introduce people to Jesus. “It’s a wide-open opportunity for us,” Atema says.
“Lebanon is poised to become one of the first Christian nations again in the Middle East. More Muslims are coming to Christ than I can even begin to tell you about.”
Header image depicts amphetamine pills, like those intercepted by Saudi authorities on April 23. (Photo courtesy of Quote Catalog/Flickr)