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HLI and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal Join Forces in defending Life in Lebanon Arabic
Joseph Meaney’s Lebanon HLI trip July 18-30, 2009
“Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message!” These words delivered in French at a mass in Beirut by Pope John Paul II during his historic 1997 missionary voyage evoke the tragic/inspiring nature of this land. Fr. Paul Marx journeyed to 91 countries in his decades of service as an international pro-life missionary, but it was almost impossible to go to Lebanon during their civil war from 1975-1990. Even after the official end of the civil war, internal conflicts and hostilities with Israel continued. In 2006 a month-long “mini-war” between the Hezbollah militia and Israeli Defense Forces resulted in tremendous damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure.
From July 18-30th I carried out Human Life International’s (HLI) first official trip to this biblical land of saints, cedars and mountains. HLI has supported pro-life activities in Lebanon for many years, especially the work of Dr. Robert Caracache and the House of Light and Hope-Beit el Nour. Much of their efforts since 1986 have focused on the rehabilitation of prostitutes and juvenile delinquents. During my time there I enjoyed a very cordial meeting with H.E. Georges Bacaouni, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Tyr whose religious vocation grew out of his involvement with the Beit el Nour group.
On the other side, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has a zealous local affiliate in the Lebanon Family Planning Association. Abortion is illegal there and so much stigma is attached to it that IPPF’s lackeys in Lebanon state that they have no interest in legalizing abortion and focus on the supposed need for more family planning. Their mantra is “promoting reproduction by choice, and not by chance,” by which they mean reducing the number of births. Their denials that they plan to get abortion-on-demand into Lebanon ring as hollow as Margaret Sanger’s in the USA when she said abortion was a crime and her organization only wanted to distribute contraception… The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is now the largest abortion provider in America-killing 305,310 preborn children in 2007 alone.
Planned Parenthood Depopulating Lebanon
Lebanon is just entering a totally new crisis, a demographic one. As recently as 1980 the average Lebanese family had 4.1 children. By the year 2000 this had fallen to 2.1, and the most recent total fertility rate (TFR) statistic for 2009 is 1.8 babies per woman. It marks the first time in history they have fallen below the minimum replacement rate to prevent demographic decline over time. Lebanon has thus joined the expanding “club” of dying nations found on all continents now, but especially dominant in the northern hemisphere. A sign of this demographic malaise is the fact that Lebanon employs so many foreign workers to keep their economy functioning. It was a big surprise to learn that many families have domestic servants from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and even Brazil or parts of Africa. A home builder told me that almost all his manual laborers come from abroad.
It is clear that both the Lebanon Family Planning Association and a decline in pro-life and pro-family values are at the heart of the new micro-family dominated Lebanon. The Lebanese, both Christians and Muslims, traditionally valued large families. In modern times many Christians began having fewer babies and large numbers fled the country. The Shi’a Muslims, on the other hand, experienced a demographic boom that has now probably made them the single largest religious denomination in the country. When we looked at the locations of Lebanon Family Planning Association birth control clinics, we discovered that they are all in Muslim, primarily Shi’a, areas. If Planned Parenthood has its way, the entire country will be contracepted and sterilized into oblivion.
The Lebanese situation is a real opportunity for a form of pro-life ecumenism. I am reminded of a beautiful story. HLI’s Dr. Antun Lisec is from Croatia. He frequently goes to Serbia in his travels and tells his audiences that he is a Croat and his message is “save the Serb babies!” His concern makes a big impression since their two peoples have a history of conflict and fought each other from 1991-1995. Planned Parenthood is clearly an enemy of humanity not just of Catholics or Christians: Muslims should join with us in resisting these anti-baby ideologues of death.
The Lebanese Catholics are inspiring. It would be difficult to find a Christian family there that did not have at least one martyr for the Faith! Despite all this suffering, the people I met had forgiven their persecutors and enemies. Thousands upon thousands of martyrs through the centuries have sanctified this land that is mentioned 72 times in the Bible. They have beloved historical figures like St. Charbel, St. Neemtallah Hardini and St. Rafqa. More recently, Father Jacques El-Haddad, known as Abouna Yaaqoub, was beatified in 2008. He died in 1954 after founding a religious congregation, the Franciscans of the Cross of Lebanon, and creating many hospitals and schools. I saw large portraits of him on display in public spaces. Religious art is on street corners and part of the fabric of every home in Lebanon, particularly in the Christian areas.
HLI Ireland On the Pro-Life Mission to Lebanon
My trip to Lebanon was part of a mission organized by a Franciscan Friar of the
Renewal, Br. Youssef-Mariam Hanna. This Lebanese friar who is studying for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Major Seminary in New York, decided to organize a series of pro-life events in his homeland during his summer break. HLI participated actively in this project with participation from myself and Patrick McCrystal and Dr. Rita O’Connor of HLI Ireland. Several other friars and lay people rounded out the group. We spoke to young persons on retreat and in open air gatherings. One day was devoted to giving information to priests and religious on the pro-life issue and another involved speaking to Lebanese psychologists and mental health professionals about various aspects of Post-Abortion Syndrome.
Mrs. Bernadette Goulding came from Rachel’s Vineyard Ireland/UK and with Br. Youssef-Mariam organized the first ever post-abortion healing retreat in Lebanon. We learned that although the laws on the books are 100% pro-life on abortion, some doctors commit them in secret and others go abroad to abort their babies. A big motivator for recourse to abortion is family shame when an unmarried daughter falls pregnant. It is very difficult in these cultural circumstances to find women with the courage to attend such a retreat or to publicly witness to the devastation abortion wrought in their lives.
Prostitution unfortunately flourishes in Lebanon and has an international sex-tourism dimension. The pro-life mission team collaborated with a parish to hold a candlelight procession with the Blessed Sacrament through one of the “Red-Light Districts” near Beirut. Several hundred faithful accompanied the priests and gave out literature, including the HLI St. Michael the Archangel prayer cards in Arabic. Traffic stopped for us, and I was struck by the respectful attitude of the people on the streets including the persons of ill-repute who came out to see what was going on. HLI’s continued support for efforts to rescue prostitutes in Lebanon is sorely needed.
So many wonderful experiences happened during this trip that it is difficult to choose the best ones to relate. I went with Dr. Robert Caracache to visit an orphanage run by Syriac- Orthodox nuns. They were forced to leave Baghdad after their chaplain was murdered by Muslim insurgents a few years ago. It was a tragedy like many we have heard. What struck me were the further details that the local Iraqi Shi’a Muslims begged the nuns to stay in their midst and promised to defend them with their lives. The sisters’ witness of goodness and charity had touched the hearts of their Muslim neighbors.
Spreading the Pro-Life Message via Satellite
We made excellent use of mass communications on this pro-life missionary journey. I was interviewed several times on Télélumière-Nour Sat, the Catholic TV network founded by Br. Nour and successfully broadcasting by satellite to all the Middle East and beyond. Almost everything they air is in Arabic, so they are doing a great work of evangelization. It is wonderful to see apostolates like Télélumière flourishing. The Lebanese Diaspora around the world is predominantly Christian and in Brazil alone numbers more than in the home country. Members of the pro-life mission team even had an interview on the Lebanese music television channel.
HLI is just starting to break-into the Arabic-speaking world. I also went on our first mission trip to Tunisia this past summer. Please pray that we succeed in defending life in this region before the death peddlers impose their agenda. Hopefully we shall carry HLI to Egypt and other nearby nations soon. Planned Parenthood and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have certainly targeted them-the current head of the UNFPA is a Saudi Arabian national. Certainly Lebanon with its strong Christians is an excellent base for HLI’s efforts to defend life in the Arabic-speaking world.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Lebanon (The last official census was done in 1932!)
 I distributed over 15,000 of the St. Michael prayer cards in Arabic, French and English on this trip.
Saint Charbel for Life
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