Lebanon: Incarnation shown ‘with simple means’

For poor families unable to buy gifts for their children, Christmas can be a difficult time. But in Lebanon, an ACN-funded project provided them with gifts, and they felt the joy and hope of the season.

For Farha and Nidaa, two widows from the Lebanese village of Qaa on the Syrian border, the Christmas presents initiative is especially important. In 2016, both women lost their husbands in an ISIS suicide attack. Farha was left to care for her three children, and Nidaa has four of her own. Their husbands were the family breadwinners, but now their widows receive only $100 a month from the army – a fraction of what they need for their daily lives, not to mention psychological help for their traumatized children.

In Lebanon’s shattered economy, the fight for daily survival has long been normal. For many parents, that means forgoing anything that is not essential. Lots of things fall by the wayside, including healthy nutrition, but also money for presents, which is very painful at Christmas.

Sister Raymonda’s eyes shine. Last year, with the help of more than 100 volunteers and the financial support of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the sister was able to address many children’s wishes for a Christmas gift and their urgent need for winter clothing. The team collected the requests of more than 10,000 children, had the garments made in Lebanon, and distributed them all over the country.

Children during distribution of Christmas gifts

“We sensed that this project was a call from God,” says the nun, who is part of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyons. “It was like a beehive around here; helpers were swarming everywhere. Even mothers who didn’t have much time came, to give at least an hour to wrapping presents. They were determined to bring children joy at Christmas.”

In Qaa, Farha and Nidaa’s village, temperatures can fall to around 35 degrees even in autumn and spring, so the new winter clothing for their children is a real godsend. After the death of her husband, Nidaa felt abandoned by everyone. Projects like ACN’s Christmas initiative show her that she is not forgotten.

“We want to stand with needy families, particularly children,” says Sister Raymonda. Even in southern Lebanon, despite the war and the economy, about 500 children received presents. Compared to their daily needs, a piece of new clothing may seem like only a small thing, but it means a lot to them. “With simple means, we can give joy and hope, witness to the Incarnation of Emmanuel, the presence of God among us, and fashion a new world.”

—Sina Hartert