The times they are a changing, and it feels like that here, these could be historic days. You may have seen on the news that there is a popular uprising here in Lebanon. I am writing to reassure you that things are good with us.
BY PHIL GOOD, MISSION PARTNER IN BEIRUT, LEBANON
It started last week when the government announced it wanted to tax the users of WhatsApp and Skype, which people here feel demonstrated how out of touch they are. Instead of doing anything serious about the major economic, social and corruption issues of the country they proposed to tax the ordinary person.
Calling out the elite
People came out onto the streets in large numbers and the protests began. When the prime minister withdrew the tax very quickly, it was too late. The protesters want the government to leave.
The common cry is “the people want the end of the regime” this is a quote from the Arab spring of 2011.
There s a strong sense of inequality with the top one per cent of the country owning 25 per cent of the wealth and these are the people in government who are widely seen as corrupt.
This has resulted in calls for the government to resign and calls of “all of them means all of them”. This means all the government are called upon to resign.
This was then amended to be “all of them means all of them and Nasrullah is one of them”. This is very significant because Nasrullah is the leader of Hesbollah and he is now seen as one of the ruling elite.
Beirut’s frustrated young adults
Another significant thing is the protest includes people all over the country north and south, as well as Beirut and across all sectarian divides.
Finally, another significant feature is that young people aged 20–30 (where unemployment is 35 per cent) form the most active group. We are not surprised by this. It is the logical conclusion of many conversations with frustrated, young, educated adults we have met in church and in restaurants and while running in the mountains.
What does it mean for us? Last Friday, the 18th, was the most dramatic. From our flat we could see the smoke of the protesters who were burning tyres on the roads all around us, and we were advised not to go out.
The road to the airport was blocked and we had to get a friend to the airport that evening, take a look at my story on philipthegood.com, ‘Friday night on the airport road’.
Roadblocks and shutdowns
Since then there have not been so many fires around but the roads are still blocked and there is a general strike. The schools and banks have been shut and the expat community has gone into lockdown.
Here in the slums of Beirut it feels okay, we are foreigners here and try not to get involved – and with no money we are not part of the problem. So apart from being very quiet, life is relatively normal.
Getting around is okay in your neighbourhood but you never know where a roadblock might spring up. So we stay in walking distance of home, as do most people.
Determined protestors, worried refugees
We know people involved in the demonstrations and they are determined, for them if this chance does not succeed there may not be another chance.
The refugees here are very worried, for them this feels like how it all started in Syria and it brings back memories of the beginning of their problems, add this to the many Kurdish refugees we know whose relatives are now facing abuse from the Turkish aggression in their home country.
These are uncertain times and we are glad to be here with these people to help them. All we do is point to a loving heavenly father and remind them that he cares for them.
So far the protests have been remarkably peaceful and indeed very jolly. We pray that there will be real progress without needing to resort to violence.