22.11.19 | Aktuelles

“The righteous flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon”

A Statement of Solidarity from the Mission Council of EMS with our Christian Brothers and Sisters in Lebanon

In June of this year the Mission Council of EMS (Evangelical Mission in Solidarity), an association of 23 Protestant Churches and 5 Mission Societies worldwide, met in Lebanon, hosted by one of its member churches: The National Evangelical Church of Beirut (NECB).  Five months later we meet again in Hohenwart, Baden / Germany to continue our discussions of the many issues that concern our international fellowship.  At this meeting, however, we cannot but express our deep regret and concern that one of our Mission Council members, and deputy chair of EMS (the pastor of NECB), was unable to join us because of the sharp civil uprising that erupted all over Lebanon on October 17. The close proximity of NECB to the heart of the events in downtown Beirut made it very risky for him to leave his country.

Our brothers and sisters in Lebanon are linked to the EMS family in numerous ways: To begin with, NECB is a long-standing member of EMS.  Also, the Evangelical Association for the Schneller Schools (EVS) is an EMS member organization.  EVS has been sponsoring the work of educational institutions for the poor and marginalized in the Middle East since 1860. More specifically, and since it became an EMS member, EVS has supported NECB in running the Johann Ludwig Schneller School (JLSS) in Lebanon since its establishment in 1952.  Moreover, since 1999, EMS has been sending students to participate in an international Study Program in the Middle East (SiMO) which takes place at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut.  Currently, EMS sponsors six international SiMO-students there.

Last June in Lebanon we learned a lot about the unique coexistence between the different religious and confessional groups in the country.  We realized that the success of this formula of conviviality is guaranteed by a consensual democratic and confessional system of governance that has been in operation under different formats in Lebanon since the 19th century.  This system has provided Lebanon with relative stability and has given it a working democratic framework of coexistence between its various Christian and Muslim confessions. 

But the system has its flaws and weaknesses; and its abuse, especially over the last 30 years, has resulted in large scale corruption, nepotism, injustice and a deep fragmentation of society.  The present economic and financial crisis that Lebanon now faces threatens its very existence.  Additionally, the sharp conflicts in the Middle East region (and the world at large) have added fuel to an already volatile and fragile situation.  The frustration of large segments of Lebanese society with these developments is the root cause of the current uprising.

With deep admiration, we received the “Appeal of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches in Lebanon” (October 23, 2019) which clearly yet painfully offered an analysis of the present situation.  The Churches stated that the “Lebanese State (has) persisted in its deviation, stubbornness and corruption, leaving the people with no choice but to rebel.”

EMS salutes the Churches of Lebanon for their prophetic “Appeal” in which they also call for “embracing and protecting the legitimate uprising of our sons and daughters, young and old, and to press upon our government and rulers to respond to their demands.”  We also join these Churches and support their call to the international community to preserve the Lebanese democracy, which they describe as “the first experiment of Christian/Muslim partnership and coexistence that emerged (in the ME) since World War I.”

The magnitude of the present transformation in Lebanon is most likely still unfolding.  We understand, however, that a transition into a “new Lebanon” free from sectarianism, corruption and outside interference, is a long-term and painful process.  Therefore, we appeal to all Lebanese to make their just demands peacefully and legally, and encourage them, as their Churches have, to “enter into constructive dialogue (amongst each other) with realism humility and openness.”  This will certainly ensure full civil rights and religious freedom to all components of that unique society. 

We trust in God’s promise that “The righteous flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92,12). We stand in prayer and in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Lebanon who are an integral and essential part of the Middle East’s past, present, and future.

Hohenwart, November 22nd 2019

On the 76th Independence Day of the Lebanese Republic