Earlier this year, Dan Corrou S.J., ’94 was appointed director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the Middle East, which is based in Beirut. Below are portions of a note he sent following the explosion in the city on Aug. 4, which killed 149 and wounded approximately 5,000.
"I am happy to say that all the Jesuits and the staff of JRS are safe. Many had cuts and scrapes from broken glass, and a few concussions, but no major injuries, thanks be to God. Unfortunately, three people who participated in programs offered by JRS in Beirut were killed. We are deeply saddened by this. Please keep them in your prayers.
On Tuesday evening, I was in the office with a few other people, and we heard the initial explosions which alerted us to something out of sorts. No one, not even those who lived through the Lebanese Civil war or the 2006 war with Israel had ever heard anything like the explosion that followed.
The Church, the JRS offices and the Jesuit residence (all of them about 1.5 km form the blast site) have all been shattered. All windows and doors have been broken and buildings were shaken or toppled etc. The JRS school and community center in Burj Hammoud (a poor neighborhood of Beirut with many displaced Syrians) were also badly hit. An engineer will come tomorrow (Inshallah) to assess the buildings.
We have already begun the response. We had some funds already for COVID-19 relief for food and hygiene kit distribution. We will continue those and try to expand. The difficulty now is that people do not have places to cook food. Many new challenges.
JRS social workers and psychologists have already begun the response efforts as well, working with people and groups over the phone to accompany people who had left Syria because of the violence and explosions in their homes. This has become a trauma, on a trauma, on a trauma - a life altering explosion, on a refugee life, on violence in their home.
During the initial clean up on Tuesday night, I found myself alone in the Jesuit church covered in dust and broken glass. I sat on a broken pew and stared at the simple red candle of the tabernacle that had not blown out. In this large, damaged, dusty, beautiful church, it was the only light. The Lamb of God, broken and beautiful, with us.
Many have said it, but 2020 has been a difficult year, and it's only August... However, in that quiet moment in the church, sitting with Jesus, I knew that if Jesus isn't leaving us in our brokenness, how can we leave one another in our brokenness. The brokenness is painful and traumatic, but the brokenness must lead to being given.
It would be easy and more comfortable to run away, but God does not do that from our chaos, God remains, the least we can do is linger with God.
Many have asked how they can help. Of course, we rely on your prayers and solidarity. If you would like to contribute to the relief effort you can donate at this link to help JRS efforts specific to our work here in Beirut.
Thank you for all of your notes and concern. Be assured that you are all in my prayers.