The “Back to School” programme launched by ACN will help assure the continuity of the Christian presence in Lebanon and the coexistence between the different religions
The international foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has just launched its “Back to school” aid programme in Lebanon, which will benefit 30,000 students and more than 6,000 teachers in almost two hundred schools, making it possible to resume classes after the summer break.
Around 185,000 pupils, both Christian and Muslim, between the ages of 6 and 18 attend some 250 Catholic schools. Due to the terrible economic crisis that Lebanon is experiencing, many of the religious congregations or dioceses that run schools in the country are very concerned about their students’ return to the classrooms. One in ten children left school during the last academic year, either due to migration, or financial difficulties.
The foundation is convinced that the continuity of the Christian presence in Lebanon depends on keeping schools open.
“Support for schools is a key response to the crisis afflicting Lebanese Christians”, Philipp Ozores, secretary general of ACN, explains.
“In this country, religious education takes place mainly in Catholic schools, rather than in parishes. If Catholic schools and teachers begin to disappear due to lack of financial means, the demographic balance will change rapidly.”
The Country’s financial collapse has made it impossible for many parents to pay tuition fees. Semi-publicschools are also experiencing a situation of great hardship because although theyare entitled to government subsidies, over the past four years the Lebanese State has not covered the costs.
“Many schools are bankrupt, they can’t afford to pay teachers and struggle to find the means to sustain themselves. The great risk is that Catholic schools will be forced to close, which would also be a long-term disaster for coexistence between religions, since these institutions play a vital role in relations between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and are an example of coexistence for the entire Middle East”, Ozores explains.
The foundation, which has already increased its aid to this country since the drastic Beirut Port explosion in August 2020, continues to prioritise the survival and subsistence of Christian communities in Lebanon, the only Arab country where Christians play an active role in society and politics, and a place of refuge for persecuted Christians for centuries, including Armenians in the twentieth century, and Syrians and Iraqis over thelast decade.
“By 2020 most of ACN’s funding to Lebanon was going to support Syrian refugees, but now it is Lebanese Christians who need our help,” Ozores explains.