The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon serves as the umbrella of Reformed Arabic-speaking congregations in the Middle East. Part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon represents 20,000 members. Its diaconal aid organization is the Compassion Protestant Society, founded in 2018. The society provides professional development aid and operates schools, clinics, nursing homes, and other vital services.
George Ziadeh is CEO of the Compassion Protestant Society, which has started a fundraising campaign, “Beirut Hope,” to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the explosion in the port of Beirut on 4 August. The interview below is excerpted from an original interview of Ziadeh produced by the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Germany, that joined the appeal for donations for the victims of the explosion.
What inspired the name of the campaign?
Ziadeh: The name of the fundraiser is no coincidence. Beirut has experienced many crises and wars. But we had and always have the will and the hope to rebuild the country with support from all over the world. That's why the project is called Beirut Hope. I already see a lot of hope. The aid organizations work together across religious borders. The churches approach the people. And that will definitely make the church a better church.
How did you organize the aid immediately after the disaster and help those affected?
Ziadeh: Shortly after the explosion, it was important to provide the people with medical care and get them to safety. After all, more than 300,000 people have lost their homes in Beirut. The biggest challenge was and is medical care, because most of the hospitals in Beirut were destroyed. So we had to take people to hospitals outside the city. The problem is, however, that Lebanon's hospitals do not have the capacity to treat the 6,000 wounded in the blast at once. The next task was to provide the people who were sitting in front of the rubble with food and to see if they needed medicine. Many organizations and people from outside Beirut have come to help.
What are the next steps and what help is most needed now?
Ziadeh: In the second phase, we as the Compassion Protestant Society have set ourselves the task of helping 1,000 families to rebuild, whose houses and apartments were destroyed by the explosion. We are talking about the rebuilding of 1,000 houses. It will be a great effort, also financially. Many aid funds arrive in US dollars and have to be converted into Lebanese pounds, although the rate is currently fluctuating a lot. But our goal is to have the houses of the 1,000 families rebuilt by winter. That is our main goal for the next two months before winter starts in October. And for this we also collect donations.
Many Syrian refugees are also affected by the explosion in Beirut. How do you help these people?
Ziadeh: There will definitely be Syrian refugees among the 1,000 families. Many of them live in the city. We know that 63 Syrian refugees died in the explosion. We will try to evaluate the situation quickly to see where help is needed most. Now it's about us, together with other organizations, to help as many people as possible. That is our goal.
People from many different religions co-exist in Lebanon. How does the cooperation of these faith communities work?
Ziadeh: Before this interview, I had a meeting with 60 organizations from different religious communities and different backgrounds. We must not look for the differences now, we must help together, pull together. Among other things, a Christian poor district is badly affected by the explosion. Muslim helpers are currently also working there. Anyway, you can see helpers from all organizations in all parts of the city. The humanitarian aid that can currently be seen on the streets of Beirut is impressive.
"Middle East Council of Churches issues appeal in response to Beirut port explosion" – WCC news release 17 August 2020