Once known as a rock of stability and religious diversity amid a sea of Middle East turmoil, Lebanon’s unraveling already means 1 million out of 5 million people are malnourished and need food assistance, half of them children.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun blamed the explosion on 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse for six years without safety measures. He said those responsible for the lapse would face the “harshest punishments.”
At the White House, President Donald Trump said generals he had met with after the explosion “seemed to feel” it was “an attack,” “a bomb of some kind.” Such attacks in Beirut aren’t unheard of: The worst terror attack against the United States before 9/11 took place at the Marine barracks in Beirut, a truck bombing that killed 241 U.S. military personnel in 1983.
In 2005 a bombing in downtown Beirut killed Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, sending the country into political upheaval it has yet to recover from. Many blamed the assassination on Hezbollah, and a special United Nations tribunal meeting at The Hague could deliver a verdict this Friday on four Hezbollah-linked suspects.
Atema plans to shift his ministry’s work—which specializes in family care, education, and faith-based programs for Syrian refugees—to also care for the city’s hurting following the blast. “It is bad, but we live in unprecedented, troubling times that give us unprecedented opportunities to share the gospel and make disciples.”