On 28th October the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, Fra’ Matthew Festing, returned to Lebanon, five years after his official visit in 2009. The visit took place at a challenging time for the country as it deals with the social, humanitarian and economic repercussions of the war taking place just a few kilometres away. The Grand Master encouraged the Lebanese Association to continue in its work to reduce suffering in the country and bring aid to those in need.
During the visit, Fra’ Matthew Festing and his delegation participated in the ceremony of the religious profession of Fra’ Jean-Louis Mainguy in Beirut – the first held in the Holy Land since the Order left Jerusalem in the 13thcentury.
The Grand Master and the government of the Sovereign Order of Malta took the opportunity to visit some of the most significant projects developed by the Lebanese Association, primarily in the socio-medical field such as the Cerebral Palsy centre in Bhannes, including the only balneotherapy centre in the whole of the Middle East, offering one-to-one therapy and school education to children suffering from pathologies caused by a lack of oxygen at birth.
Accompanied by the President of the Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta, Marwan Sehnaoui, the Grand Master also visited the Sisters of the Cross hospital where the ‘guests’ of the holiday camps for the disabled (Chabrouh project) reside, and where they are cared for by the volunteers of the Order throughout the year. They also visited the Chabrouh centre where every year 200 volunteers from all over the world gather to offer help and companionship as well as to foster trust and hope among the disabled.
The Order of Malta’s action in Lebanon stretches from north to south, reaching remote areas and villages often lacking basic welfare services. Through a widespread network of socio-medical centres, day care centres and mobile medical units, the Association provides daily care to the elderly, the disabled and the poor.
In the wake of the ongoing conflict and the huge number of Syrian refugees pouring into the country, the Order of Malta has stepped up its assistance to care for the Syrian population. In an interview with one of the country’s leading newspapers L’Orient-Le Jour during the visit, the Grand Chancellor underlined the importance of being present in emergency areas and expressed his deep concern for the persecution of minorities. Albrecht Boeselager emphasized the special ties binding the Order of Malta to Lebanon: “a country that is a model of coexistence and that remains a symbol of hope despite the many wars witnessed” he said.
Through a collaboration project with Malteser International, the Lebanese Association of the Order of Malta has offered assistance to 32,000 Syrian refugees since the onset of the conflict in 2011 and thanks to the German government, a mobile clinic in Wadi Khaled – the poorest and most sensitive area near the northern border – reaches out to the population in dire need, both Syrians and Lebanese.