Prayer in a Time of Dispossession

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July 1, 2021
Finding Joy in a Miserable Land: Reflections on Living Morning to Morning in Lebanon
July 15, 2021

by Rabih Hasbany

Astray in my homeland, estranged, I cry.

My voice isn’t heard by those passing by,

Echoing hungry, blighted country folk

Who’ve come to live on their worries and sighs.

 

As I thought about this week’s blog post, I wondered which current event I should address. There are plenty of issues in Lebanon. One is an ongoing fuel shortage crisis. People must wait for hours in queues stretching hundreds of meters at gas stations to buy a small amount of rationed fuel. The scarcity of fuel also has resulted in increased hours of power outages and dying internet connection.

Another pressing issue is the medicine shortage in pharmacies and hospitals, leaving some patients at risk of preventable death. Some foodstuffs are not available in Lebanon, such as baby formula, or are only available on the black market. As for the goods available in shops, prices have doubled in recent months. The prices of fresh or frozen beef jumped by 110 percent between Feb. 14, 2020 and March 8, 2021, constituting the highest increase ever in the price of this item in the MENA region in the last 29 years.

Perhaps we can call what the Lebanese people are going through a case of dispossession. By definition, dispossession is the action of depriving someone of land, property, or other possessions. This is taking place in Lebanon. In a series of measures taken by banks at the instigation of Lebanon’s Central Bank, depositors’ accounts in dollars have been blocked for nearly two years. The rise in the price of the dollar against the lira has depleted the national currency to less than 10% of its former value. As a result, Lebanon is experiencing unprecedented inflation as it goes collectively bankrupt. According to a World Bank report, it is fast becoming one of the top three cases of economic meltdowns since 1850!

The Lebanese are dispossessed, not by an occupying state or a foreign enemy, but by their own state. Rulers and political leaders who, because of their greed, corruption and mismanagement, deprive citizens of their possessions and the right to access resources such as electricity, food products, fuel and other necessities for decent living. Thus, the Lebanese are estranged and exiled in their own country. They have become astray in their homeland.

Throughout the IMES Blog, many of my colleagues reflected on the Lebanese situation and the Church’s approach and engagement. I appreciate everything that has been written and even praise it and call for its practice. However, today as a Lebanese believer who is vulnerable to the challenging situation, I want to look up to the Lord and proclaim His greatness in the midst of difficulties, His power in the midst of challenges, and His care in adversity.

Too often in crises we preach about what to do or what not to do. Sometimes we may get caught up in the practical applications of the Church’s response. As the body of Christ on earth, we must demonstrate Christlike responses to crisis. Jesus healed, fed, and raised the dead, but above all, he spent time with the Father. We too must go to the Father first seeking strength from Him and remembering who our God is.

I reflect on David’s position in the Psalms when he faced difficulties and enemies, looking to God and praising Him. Circumstances did not change, but David was the one who changed. He lamented but, at the same time, proclaimed the faithfulness of God. It is important to look to God in order to see things from His perspective and not from our human perspective. Today I want to worship Him, to praise Him and raise His name above Lebanon’s crises. I invite you to join me in a prayerful verse.

 

How Can We Ask Ourselves “What’s next?” When You’re the Keeper of Your Promises

– by Rabih Hasbany, translated to English by Teresa Sfeir

Astray in my homeland, estranged, I cry.

My voice isn’t heard by those passing by,

Echoing hungry, blighted country folk

Who’ve come to live on their worries and sighs.

 

The worker lost his livelihood and bread.

He limps beneath the weight of dreary debt.

A mother weeps; her swollen heart aches for

A child she will not see for years ahead.

 

Children have lost their brighter tomorrow.

Young ones have no more visions to follow.

Ill fathers no remedy can they find.

The bellies of newborns remain hollow.

 

The tankers have no more fuel oil in store.

We turn to candlelight just like before.

Our streets are deserted; their lamps are out.

As a boat in a storm, we’re tossed about.

 

Shall power thirsty rulers be our aid—

They who have sketched a Lebanon that’s maimed—

They who have tightly shut windows of hope—

And from our money, a fortune they made?

 

Shall we remain as a pitiful man

Who, stabbed and duped, he watched their blood-stained hands?

How can we longer bear the treachery?

By word and deed, they betrayed our homeland.

 

On earth, we seek a haven, but in vain.

Money and honor have gone down the drain.

We’ve come to seek a safety shore, no more,

Within a country ailed by want and strain.

 

As vapor, joy eludes us once again.

Sorrow, instead, does take over the reins.

Our timid laughs are muted, and we find

No soul in whom we can confide and hide.

 

He sees my shame and my aggravation.

I tell Him of my people and nation—

Of how we lost our home while yet at home

And chose the rule of sect and contention.

 

Lord, I come to You with so much to speak,

And bitter tears are streaming down my cheek.

Sorrow has settled, made its home right here.

Even the simple sees the plight that’s bleak.

 

You’re the Most High. You do not ever change,

Though things around us seem so dark and strange.

Your glorious throne has no start or end.

Eternal, supernal, Lord, is your reign.

 

We look to You, O mighty One alone.

Our tongues can’t tell of all the works You’ve shown,

And in the wilderness, You’ve been my help.

In trials, I was never on my own.

 

All power and authority are Thine.

To every plea, Lord, Your ear You incline.

Have mercy on my stubborn people, and

Grant us the grace of salvation at hand.

 

Away from You, O Lord, peace has no trace.

But in Your arms, we rest in Your embrace.

Involve us in Your new covenant grace,

So that we live with You for all our days.

 

In our own nation, though we are hard pressed—

There are oppressors and then the oppressed—

How can we ask ourselves “What’s next?”

When You’re the Keeper of Your promises.

 

If Rabih were not a translator and the Certificate in Ministry Program Lead at ABTS then he would be an architect designing buildings with style.

4 Comments

  1. Brian Mc Gucken says:

    I am so humbled by your blog and your response to the situation in Lebanon. I am joining in your prayer and asking my Church community here in England to do likewise. Brian McGucken.

  2. rabihhasbany says:

    Thank you, Brian for your encouraging response. It is a great reminder that we are one body of Christ praying for each other.

  3. Thank you Rabih….These moving words based on David’s psalms of lament bring such light on the situation in Lebanon, a country of great concern to us – the subjects of our laments here are often so trivial in comparison. We will continue to lament and praise the Lord with you. Blessings to you all, Judith
    ,

    • Rabih Hasbany says:

      Thank you Judith for your concern about Lebanon. David’s psalms are a great inspiration for us on how to lament with a worshipping heart and God-focused minds.

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