Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 18, 2006
Canadians must help Lebanese Christians
War is pushing many out of their homeland
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"It's their (Christians') country, their history."
- Carl Hétu
Christians do want a future, he said. "It's their country, their history."
"We need to encourage the Christians and help them stay," he said.
Hétu said all the Christian leaders he met are calling for the Christian population to stay in Lebanon or the country will lose its pluralistic uniqueness.
It is the only democratic country outside of Israel in the region, and the only pluralistic country with its 40 per cent Christian population among Muslim Shiites and Sunni.
Hétu said pluralism has worked in Lebanon and a lot of healing has been done since the civil war.
"What CNEWA has been doing in Lebanon since 1949 is to work with the people at the base, help people develop projects where Sunni, Shiite and Christians can work together," he said. He hopes Canadian Catholics will continue to help CNEWA build further cooperation among the three groups to promote healing.
Hétu toured the country, visiting CNEWA projects and sites destroyed during the recent war between Hezbollah and Israel. He investigated where time, energy, resources and resources can best be directed so Lebanese Christians can have sustainable development jobs in their country.
The war destroyed houses, churches, streets, water systems, irrigation systems and schools.
Hétu met with the Maronite Christian Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, who has called for a peaceful resolution of the political turmoil. "When the patriarch speaks, his words are taken seriously," he said.
CNEWA has traditionally supported projects that help the poorest of the poor in the region, regardless of religious affiliation. That method has helped build bridges among the faith groups.
Hétu said war had destroyed some projects that will have to be rebuilt. An Israeli bomb destroyed an irrigation system serving a farm in the south where farmers grew lentils, olives and tobacco. Another bomb destroyed a barn at a cattle farm.
A cold pressed olive oil factory CNEWA helped build was saved, but farmers cannot harvest the crop until cluster bombs in the fields are destroyed. They need compensation to keep them going until their next harvest.
In another area, the Israeli army destroyed hundreds of olive trees, some of them 300 years old. CNEWA will help those farmers replant trees, but they will take seven years to bear fruit, Hétu said.
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