Lebanon (MNN) — Most eyes on the Middle East are watching Iran and potential conflict. However, with the announcement of Lebanon’s new government in the face of recent protests, some focus has shifted back to Lebanon.
Most questions concern Lebanon’s new leadership and its political implications, but Pierre Houssney of Horizons International says there’s something else to consider; how is Lebanon’s economic situation affecting regular citizens?
Lebanon has access to economic prosperity, but Houssney says it’s mostly concentrated in a mega-rich upper class. That means “working class people are living on a really, really tight margin because…the living expenses in the country are very high, on par with [or] even above some places in the US.”
The working or middle class faces tight budgets in the face of increasing costs of living. That means they don’t have the same access to education for themselves or their children, basic living expenses, or streams of income they once held.
Houssney says some people are even receiving only 50% of their salaries on a monthly basis. What’s more, some local banks won’t let them withdraw any cash. Some banks have even been accused of selling dollars to money changers on the street to make a profit, giving their customers Lebanese currency as a major decrease.
Couple that with 30-40% prince increases on essentials such as groceries and you have a recipe for intense economic stress.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Syrian refugee crisis is ever-present. “A lot of people around the world have kind of gotten just fatigued of hearing about the refugee crisis, while at the same time, it’s getting worse and worse here,” Houssney says.
Normally, Horizons International would provide those refugees with financial support and backing. However, at the same time as Lebanon’s economic crisis, donations to Horizons International have not grown fast enough to keep up with the vast needs and opportunities in front of the organization.
That’s led Houssney and Horizons International to make some difficult decisions. For example, “We actually had to cut off… all 39 churches that we had been supporting with food portions. We had to cut them off last month, not just because there’s not enough donations to cover the food supplies, but also, even the food distributors that we’re getting food from, a lot of them have stopped being able to even get the materials.”
Inflation has also forced Horizons International to cut back on missions trips, refugee aid, and other local programs.
And yet where finances fail, God’s love is still at work.
“We’re still seeing so many just hundreds of believers from a Muslim background that are remaining in the faith, that are remaining committed to Jesus, committed to the Church,” Houssney says. “That’s been really, really encouraging.”
Pray for encouragement and courage for the Lebanese Church. Consider how you might contribute to their efforts via Horizons International.
Right now, “things feel a little bit dark. And that’s when we need to remember and… regain our vision that this is about the Gospel,” Houssney says. “This is about salvation, that Jesus is the light of the world.”
“Let the church be leading in this time of need.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.