It seemed like any other typical Tuesday this summer. I had come home for a lunch break from my internship in Cleveland, turned on the Lebanese Al-Manar channel and sat down with my mother to talk about my morning meetings.
Suddenly, as the news broadcasters began jokingly discussing how Lebanon’s painful political and economic woes can only be saved by a direct intervention from God, the entire television set shook.
It has been over a week since one of the world’s largest explosions in recorded history rattled the city of Beirut. Such a catastrophe in a nation that has faced a political revolution and suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months needs the entire world’s attention and emotional and financial support now more than ever, including from the Georgetown University community.
Over the past few days, scenes of the destruction and bloodshed have been flooding my Instagram and WhatsApp feeds, the primary means through which I communicate with my family and friends in Lebanon. Currently, over 200 people have died and over 6,000 more are injured. Members of my own family were also rushed to overwhelmed hospital emergency rooms. What provoked the blast of over 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate in one of Beirut’s busiest ports remains unclear. Nonetheless, the utter devastation cannot be overlooked.
Growing up, I spent many summers with family in my beloved Lebanon. After calling my relatives overseas following the blast, I spent hours looking through old childhood pictures, reminiscing about safer times in the country I lived in years ago.
The memories of the homemade Knafeh pastry my grandmother and I used to make during holidays and the soccer matches my cousins and I would take part in near the Roman ruins of Byblos are experiences in my homeland no explosion can ever take away from me.
The pains us Lebanese are facing stem not only from this blast, but also from fear and despair about what happens next. Very few people trust Lebanon’s leaders from any political party after an unsuccessful revolution that began in October 2019. No viable economic solution has emerged to aid a population of which 75% is now living below the poverty line and needs financial assistance. The explosions last week were only the tipping point in an inept political system plighting Lebanon’s people. Although members of the government have since resigned, protests in Beirut prove that this is not enough.
Lebanon is facing unprecedented hardships that only became apparent to many people in the United States after the tragic blasts Aug. 4, likely because of French President Emmanuel Macron’s kind visit to show solidarity. Western media outlets remained largely silent until Macron’s visit, once more highlighting that the lives of some are valued over the lives of others.
The English channels spoke almost no word on the innocent souls lost from the beautiful capital of Lebanon, whereas Arabic channels have been highlighting the personal stories of the lives lost almost nonstop.
The pains and catastrophes the world’s people experience should be felt and dealt with by all, including Georgetown students. Specifically at our university, we are taught the Jesuit principles of “faith that does justice” and being “people for others.” Hoyas must be committed to checking up on their Lebanese friends, and student organizations should put out statements of solidarity with the people of Beirut as well as resources for those who are suffering.
The Georgetown community can help in many ways, as over 300,000 Lebanese people have lost their homes because of the blasts, the equivalent of almost 5% of the nation’s population of about 7 million. The Lebanese Lire has lost over 80% of its value since October, and the nation has the third-largest public debt-to-GDP ratio in the world. As students at a school located in Washington, D.C., with a focus on international relations, it is our duty to care about the plight that has consumed Lebanon in recent months, even before this explosion.
The Georgetown University Arab Society, in which I have made some of my closest friends throughout my years on the Hilltop, has shared many resources for people to donate on its Instagram page. Supporting the Lebanese people begins at home. With enough contributions, many more people outside our campus will soon take notice of Beirut’s sufferings. In my beloved Lebanon, everyone cares for and assists one another. So many Hoyas I have spoken to are on the streets cleaning up the destruction from the blasts and are offering their homes to others who lost their own.
My heart is broken into a million pieces. Lebanon does not deserve this. I know my people are resilient and will rebuild stronger than ever, hopefully with more support and awareness from places outside the Arab world this time around.
Youssef Osman is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.