Written by Daniel Corrou S.J.
In the days and weeks after the massive explosion of August 4, 2020, the people of Beirut have been sharing stories.
There has been a collective need to speak about this horrifying experience, and to feel the solidarity that comes with that sharing.
We now count 178 dead, and over 6,000 wounded. There are over 300,000 people whose housing is now insecure as a result of this one explosion. We are happy to report that all the Jesuits are safe. Many had cuts and scrapes from broken glass, and one bad fall, but there were no major injuries, thanks be to God.
Unfortunately, several people who were part of the Ignatian family in Lebanon have died as a result of this tragedy. Alumni of our schools and University, members of Ignatian groups, and beneficiaries of JRS, this explosion did not discriminate. Please keep them all in your prayers.
All the Jesuit works of Beirut were severely damaged: St. Joseph Church, University St. Joseph, the Bibliothèque Orientale and Hôtel Dieu Hospital as well as the Jesuit communities of St. Joseph, St. Ignace, and St. Gregoire. Each of them was shattered. The rebuilding process will be long and difficult, and we will need to rely on friends to help us rebuild.
All the Jesuits in Beirut are grateful for the concern and solidarity that so many have demonstrated. In this difficult time, it is good to know that we are not alone.
The reaction to this tragedy has been wonderful to experience. While there is tremendous anger at the government and concern about the future of the country, thousands of people have been out in the neighborhoods cleaning up the debris, feeding the hungry, and trying to put some order in this chaos. Perhaps it is part of the tragic beauty of Beirut that the city knows how to clean up well.
It has been especially beautiful to see the Ignatian family rallying to respond. Two days after the blast, St. Joseph Church was filled with Scouts and Offre Joie groups, preparing meals to distribute, and cleaning the church and offices. Like benevolent locusts, they removed every piece of glass or dust, and returned the building to order.
In the weeks after the explosion, however, we are beginning to face the larger difficulties. After the cleanup, we can now assess the very real structural damages to buildings. More profound even than those damages, however, are the psychological and spiritual wounds caused by this. Those will take far more than groups of energetic young people.
My own prayer since the explosion has been thoroughly Third Week. It has focused on the broken body of Christ. The Lamb of God is broken, and the pain is real. Like Veronica, we can wipe the sweat and blood away, but the wounds still exist. It is that radical accompaniment that we aspire to in our Ignatian tradition; it is our response to the accompaniment that is the Incarnation.
The relief is on-going, the reconstruction will take a long time and many resources. The Jesuits of the Middle East are very grateful for any help that can be shared. We will need to advocate for the rights of displaced people and migrants as well as vulnerable Lebanese. However, there is a deep sense that this brokenness is not the end. As people inspired by Ignatius we are called to be agents of that deep sense of hope, we are called to preach the resurrection in all we do.