(from Beirut) “How can you talk of peace when some are fuelling wars in the Region? What are the consequences of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen? Only death, hatred, and violence! Where is the democracy that some wanted to bring? We see nothing but desolation. Despite everything, I believe we can still hope and live in dignity and respect”. Father Paul Karam, President of Caritas Lebanon, said this yesterday as he met a group of delegates from some Italian Diocesan Caritas on their solidarity visit to Lebanon promoted by Caritas Italy. “Lebanon – the Maronite priest said – can no longer pay the bills of other people’s wars unleashed on our borders” – a clear reference to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria which have pushed into the Country of the Cedars over one million Syrians and countless Iraqis, who add their numbers to the decades-long presence of Palestinians. It is estimated that one third of the Lebanese population is made up of refugees, with serious social, political and economic repercussions for the country. And their numbers are rising. According to Father Karam, “in the first half of 2017 alone, 170 thousand children were born to refugee families. These children have no rights or citizenship, they are born invisible”. Father Karam explained that Caritas “is trying to do its utmost to meet the needs of both local and refugee populations with dedicated projects, also thanks to the support of other bodies such as Caritas Italy. The Lebanese have increasingly been the focus of our projects. Indeed, recent studies have shown that about 35% of Lebanese people live below the poverty line. And the conditions of Palestinian refugees are also worsening”. To revive its aid programs, Caritas Lebanon has launched a Lenten campaign based on three actions, to “help, donate and support, where material aid goes hand in hand with sharing and spiritual support. Let us not be fooled by large buildings, by shopping malls full of lights, by building sites that churn out luxury apartments”, the President of Caritas said. “Many of these, approximately 60%, are owned by businessmen from the Gulf countries. Here in Lebanon, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. The middle class no longer exists. Young couples struggle to get married, to find a home and a job. Were it not for the remittances of the approximately 18 million Lebanese of the diaspora, Lebanon today would be on the verge of bankruptcy. Families live on the aid they receive from their relatives abroad”.