Pollution, protest or pandemic – facemasks in Lebanon have become a symbol of confusion and uncertainty, writes mission partner Philip Good in Beirut, where he and his wife Sylvie support refugees.
There is something in the air and it isn’t good. I know because I see people wearing masks over their mouths. When we arrived in Lebanon it seemed like everyone apologised for being stressed and they said it was in the air. Something about the place made everyone very stressed.
Then my wife got a cough which was unusual in itself, but it hung around for six months. We eventually put it down to the pollution when we found that antihistamine tablets relieved it. Almost like she became allergic to the air having never had an allergic reaction to anything before.
Then we had a revolution here in Lebanon and they were burning tyres to block the roads. There was blanket of black soot over everything, and yes everything including in our noses. People started wearing facemasks, it almost became a badge of membership of the protest movement.
Now, a new twist: coronavirus has arrived and people have started wearing the face masks again. I think the picture of the mannequins in a local shop wearing facemasks illustrates the confusion perfectly.
Here in Lebanon today we find ourselves watching the country slide into its own difficulties with civil unrest and economic collapse filling the news every day. This makes everyone feel like we are all refugees, we are entering a tunnel and the bright future at the end of the tunnel seems to be receding as the difficulties get bigger and the possible solutions diminish.
Coronavirus has arrived in Lebanon and it seems like another global issue is added to the load we must carry as if there weren’t enough uncertainties to live with.
We are all living in “uncertain times” and despite the continual economic, technical and medical advances we have seen, it seems we have as much need of security as we ever did.
Therefore as we settle back into Beirut we find ourselves praying to connect with the faithful God whose love is certain and where we find a security that is better than anything the world can offer.
We need this security as we face the uncertain future because our job here is to testify to the people around us that our God is big enough and strong enough for them too.
By being here, even just by our presence, we are a reminder that faith in Jesus produces a foundation that is able to withstand the tidal waves of uncertainty that seem to threaten our very existence.