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Disaster Strikes Beirut
FALL 2020
   By Sylvia Haddad, Director of PCC partner in Lebanon, Joint Christian Committee for Social Service in Lebanon (JCC). The JCC is one
of the oldest non-governmental organizations working with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. JCC is part of the Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) founded in 1950. Besides Lebanon, DSPR operates in four other regions: the
West Bank, Galilee, Gaza and Jordan, with a central office for coordination in Jerusalem. Over the years, JCC has provided a wide range of services to the refugees in Lebanon, which began with relief work but soon changed focus to education and vocational training.
On the evening of August 4, Beirut felt the earth shake. I live on the 10th floor so my reaction was to run down the steps as it felt like an earthquake was about to demolish my building. A sharp deafening blast stopped me, and I went to the window to search for Israeli planes bombing us, an
experience we have had. But the sky was clear so I ran to the bal- cony looking for smoke. I saw huge window frames flying from the flats beneath me landing on cars. I looked for our doorman’s children who play in an area by the parked cars where the windowpanes had fallen. Relief engulfed me when I saw they were not there.
There was no radio or TV as it was not our turn to have electricity. I got my battery-operated radio and I heard the terror of what was hap- pening. When the electricity came on, I watched the television and was horrified by what I saw. My doorbell rang and my two grandchildren stood there saying, “Our house has been hit, and our parents have gone to check.” Their apartment, a mile and a half from the scene of explosion, was badly damaged. We all thought, thank God they were not in their house when the explosion happened.
The next morning, the horror of what had happened was made clear.
An explosion had destroyed the port completely. A large number of the 1,000 people working there had disappeared under the rubble or into the sea. The main grain silo, which holds about 85% of the country’s wheat, was destroyed along with many containers storing medicines and life-sustaining equipment. All the buildings around the por t were very badly damaged.
Parallel to the port street is his- toric Jemaizeh Street, one of the few remaining old streets recalling the history and traditions of old Beirut. These historic buildings started to fall, and people screamed as many disappeared under the rubble. The scene was the same at the Orthodox hospital where many of the patients and staff had no chance of survival when parts of the structures fell. The search for those missing contin- ues as people carry pictures of their loved ones to hospitals and morgues.
Reports state that about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded from a disabled vessel in 2014 had been stored in a port warehouse. An accident appears to have caused the chemicals to explode.
As time passes, the consequenc- es of this explosion will be serious. Lebanon imports 80% of what it consumes but the port will no longer receive any goods. Additionally, the loss of the port means the govern- ment has lost a major source of in-
Sylvia Haddad speaking to children and their parents at the JCC in 2015.
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come. The timing couldn’t be worse as the country’s currency has col- lapsed after years of mismanage- ment and corruption. Hundreds of thousands of people cannot buy food, medicine or fuel. The Lebanese people watch helplessly as they see their savings wiped out and their pur- chasing power disappear.
The coronavirus crisis has placed great pressure on the health sector. The damage sustained by the main hospitals as the result of the explosion has further reduced the ability of the hospitals to cope and the hospital staff use parking lots for emergency care.
Many of the Palestinian refugee camps are far from the port where the explosion took place. But two of
the camps near Beirut, Dbayeh (10 miles north of the port) and Sabra to the south-east of Beirut, felt the explosion. Currently, the Palestinians living in the camps who have been trained on helping others, especially with those who need extra care and the elderly, are working on how they can help.
This is the time to support a coun- try that has hosted the Palestinian refugees for so many years. We in- tend to do whatever we can to show our gratitude to God with the hope of getting help from our friends and par tners.
To contribute to relief efforts in Beirut, visit
Fredericton, St. Andrew’s (full-time minister) – Atlantic Provinces
Duncan, St. Andrew’s (full-time minister) – British Columbia
Bramalea, North Bramalea (full-time minister) – Central, Northeastern Ontario & Bermuda (CNEOB)
Kingston, St. John’s & Seeley’s Bay, Sand Hill (full-time minister, 2-point charge) – CNEOB
Kitchener, Doon (full-time minister) – CNEOB
Kitchener, St. Andrew’s (full-time minister) – CNEOB
Lakefield, St. Andrew’s and Lakehurst, Knox (60%-time minister) – CNEOB
Madoc, St. Peter’s (full-time minister) – CNEOB
Port Perry, St. John’s (40%-time minister) – CNEOB
Scarborough, Guildwood Community (full-time minister) – CNEOB
Montreal, The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul (full-time Associate Minister for Community Connections and Care) – Quebec & Eastern Ontario
Fonthill, Kirk on the Hill (full-time minister) – Southwestern Ontario
Kincardine, Knox (full-time minister) – Southwestern Ontario
Windsor, University Community Church (full-time minister) – Southwestern Ontario
Woodstock, Knox (full-time minister) – Southwestern Ontario
Read all full obituaries online at
Submit your questions to
Answered by the Rev. Ian Ross- McDonald, General Secretary of the Life and Mission Agency
St. Andrew’s has some Bibles and a piano that were given to the congre- gation in memory of people over the years. Do we have to give valuable items back to the family that gave them? Do we have to keep these items in perpetuity?
This is an excellent question that comes up often in congregations. First, these matters should always be dealt with sensitively and pastorally, as these items can have great mean- ing for people. Second, if a charitable
receipt for the gift has been issued to the donor, no matter when the dona- tion was made, the donor has no claim whatsoever on the item. Finally, the Session decides the needs of the congregation and decides upon the location and use of items accordingly. The Rev. Don Muir, Deputy Clerk of the General Assembly, has written a helpful guide for congregations in this regard. His resource called, “Making Space: How to Manage Church Fix- tures,” can be found at presbyterian. ca/enhancing-space, beginning on page 6.
We have a teenager who is very active in our congregation and who identifies as LGBTQI. Are we allowed to ask her to teach Sunday School or
do we have to wait to see whether the remits about sexuality pass? The Session is responsible for the re- cruitment, appointment, training and suppor t of teachers and education leaders as well as the selection and approval of resource materials and programs that will be used in Christian education. Anyone who the Session believes demonstrates the maturity, gifts and enthusiasm to teach church school is eligible to be a teacher and education leader. Gender identity and sexual orientation in no way disqualify anyone from service in the church. The remits related to sexuality cur- rently before the church concern min- isters officiating at and entering same- sex marriage and are not related to sexual orientation.
Joy Margaret Ross Randall
Cobourg, Ont.
Deceased July 10, 2020
Helen Tetley
Toronto, Ont.
Deceased June 14, 2020
The Rev. Dr. Hans Kouwenberg
Vancouver, B.C. Deceased June 10, 2020
Elizabeth Marion (Betty) Kenn
Scarborough, Ont. Deceased May 31, 2020
Doreen Roberta Morrison
Toronto, Ont.
Deceased May 25, 2020
Vera Ann Blake
Barryville, N.B. Deceased May 12, 2020
The Rev. Patricia Elford
Pembroke, Ont. Deceased April 8, 2020
Gordon Kenneth Cameron
Moose Jaw, Sask. Deceased July 20, 2020

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