Lebanon names new cabinet ahead of clashes and crisis

By February 12, 2020

Lebanon (MNN) – On Tuesday, with the confidence vote looming in Parliament, the rubble of protest littered the streets of Lebanon.

After months of protest, of demands to remove the government and start anew, it seemed like the nomination of Prime Minister Hassan Diab and a new Cabinet would be a step in the right direction.  However, Nuna of Triumphant Mercy-Lebanon says, “There are many protests on the street. Many people don’t want this Cabinet, this new government, so it’s a bit violent.”

Protests continue in Lebanon

Diab’s religious affiliations displeased enough that more rocks and attacks greeted Parliament members as they arrived for the vote of confidence.  Demonstrators maintained their calls for a different government.   However, Nuna wonders if the demonstrators’ demands are feasible. “This is my point of view; if we want a technocrat government, which is far from politics, I agree with that, but at the same time, Lebanon is such a religious country, everything in Lebanon goes with religion.”

She points out the power-sharing aspect of their government structure. “You have people who are Christian or Sunni or Shiites; they need to be in certain positions because of the Constitution. So unless we change the Constitution, this is how it should be.  Even a technocrat person needs to be following some religious affiliation.”

(Photo courtesy Patrice Bon/Wikipedia/CC)

When asked if the unreasonable demands connect to frustration over the economic crisis, Nuna said, “People don’t have any more resources. We have so many people who have been laid off work.  Companies that want to keep their heads (above) water, they’re trying to cut salaries in half. Many people are going through very hard economic crisis. The bank situation is even harder, and people are not able to get money out of the bank.”

A painful rescue plan

Meanwhile, the new Cabinet warned that austerity measures had to be part of the recovery plan.  Lebanon has one of the highest debt ratios in the world.  That, coupled with no economic growth, high unemployment, and an influx of refugees, rapidly worsened the situation.  Even as the New Prime Minister prepares to deliver ugly news, the government has to move deliberately.  If nothing else, the months of protests speak loudly.  Nuna says, “They will have to prove themselves because now the people are holding them responsible.  They just told the government, ‘we are watching you. You have to prove yourself now. You have to show us that you are actually making changes.'”

Instability and uncertainty impacts everyone

Given the amount of change in government and unrest, security measures also beefed up.  Life is unpredictable, even for Non-Government Organizations and ministries.  For example, “One of my bus drivers, the one who takes the kids (to school), was arrested. He was going through a checkpoint, a normal thing, but he was arrested. The kids could not get to school, so this was my job (today):  to figure out how the kids will get to school, and what to do with a driver who’s (been) arrested.”

(Photo courtesy Triumphant Mercy Lebanon)

Nuna says one of the daily challenges is figuring out how to sustain a ministry while subject to cash flow restrictions. “We don’t have any more cash in Lebanon. People who want to get money out of the bank, they have between $400 and $600, depending on the bank, per month.” She goes on to say the restrictions make it hard for people to function. “They can’t buy things. People don’t take checks anymore because the bank will not give them cash.”

Being part of the solution

Lebanon faces a long, hard road ahead.  Even the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ seems unrealistic. “For now, the tunnel is dark,” explains Nuna. “We’re seeing bankruptcy looming on the horizon; we see the collapse of the whole regime in Lebanon. We don’t know what’s coming .”

For a ministry aiming to meet the physical and spiritual needs of thousands of Syrian refugees in the camps, this uncertainty is daunting.    As the economic crisis tightens its grip, hopelessness grows, and yet, because Triumphant Mercy walks alongside the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon, the hope they live by shines brightly.   Nuna invites others to join her in praying that people find Christ in what seems to be an impossible situation. “I don’t see any other solutions.  Basically, it is finding Christ, because we don’t have any other hope.  That would be my prayer because we have no other solution.”

(Headline photo courtesy Slientwriter/Wikipedia/CC)

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