Beirut Explosion Levels Forgiveness Structure

Beirut, Lebanon – A massive explosion in Beirut’s port on Tuesday killed at least 135 people, injured more than 5,000, and displaced some 300,000 others from their homes. At least 100 people remain missing following the explosion that damaged more than 50% of the city. Debris from damaged buildings litters the streets of Beirut following the Tuesday explosion that has been called “one of the world’s largest non-nuclear detonations.” Beirut is home to 2 million people. (Ramy Taleb photo)

According to the Lebanese government, the source of the explosion was 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used as fertilizer and sometimes in bombs, which had been stored in a port warehouse after being confiscated from an abandoned Russian-owned ship in 2014. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that the warehouses were storing more than 200 surface-to-air missiles.

Once known for its dynamic food, music and culture, Lebanon is now in the midst of an economic crisis with rolling blackouts, a shortage of food, rising COVID-19 rates, and a monthly inflation rate of 56%. (Ramy Taleb photo)

The blast destroyed or damaged most structures over an area of about 160 acres (larger than the entire Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA) including a building that served as a headquarters and operations base for Forgiveness Education projects in Lebanon. The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon (FFRL), a Beirut non-profit organization, was using the building as the center for its “Play for Peace” program.

Play for Peace is part of FFRL’s Forgiveness and Peace Curriculum that is designed to build bridges between participants from diverse backgrounds–Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Muslim, Christian and others–through football (better known elsewhere as soccer, the world’s most popular sport). The program operates in partnership with Al Shabab Al Arabi Club Beirut, a 40-year-old Lebanese football club. Watch a 3:36 Play for Peace video. 

“Yesterday we were in Bourj Hammoud checking on our Play for Peace families who live there,” says Ramy Taleb, founder and director of FFRL. “Most of their houses are gone or broken, just like our building.  These families are now in desperate need of support for medical and general humanitarian assistance.

Bourj Hammoud is a municipality about a kilometer east of Beirut’s port area (where the explosion occurred) and one of the most densely populated districts in the Middle East that includes large numbers of refugees.  According to Mercy Corps (a global team of humanitarians working in Beirut), refugees now account for about 30% of Lebanon’s population.

“Today we went back to Bourj Hammoud with our youth group from Saida (a city in southern Lebanon also known as Sidon). We listened, we wept, we began to clean up so families can somehow rebuild,” Taleb said. “Many of these families were in need of assistance even before the explosion. Lebanon has always been a country of great resilience, but when is enough, enough?”

Ramy and Roula Taleb operate the Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon. With their two children, the couple live south of Lebanon’s capital of Beirut.

Taleb’s frustration reflects the complexity of the situation in Beirut. While searchers are still pulling bodies from the rubble, the explosion destroyed the country’s main grain silos, spilling and contaminating 15,000 tons of their contents. That, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, is pushing Lebanon toward a major food shortage.

“We desperately need help,” Taleb says. “Our families need help. Our children need help. We always appreciate any support that we can get and now is when we need it most just to survive.”


Please support the people in Lebanon who survived the horrific explosion. Watch a 56-second video of the destruction in Bourj Hammoud as described by Ramy Taleb then click the picture above to let those in Lebanon know they are in your heart.


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