Bkerké (Agenzia Fides) - Christians in Lebanon are preparing to celebrate Christmas in a country ravaged by chronic political instability and, above all, by a devastating economic crisis that affects the daily lives of millions of Lebanese, pushing the majority of the population below the poverty line and making medicines, fuel and even basic foods unavailable. In this scenario, the unprecedented "alliance" between the young Catholics of the Lebanese network of parishes and small agricultural producers is an important and objective sign of hope and resilience. Its objective is to create a network of small local markets where agricultural products, grown with techniques that can guarantee high quality and organic certification, can be sold at sustainable prices, following the marketing channels "from producer to consumer". "The bet we have made - explains to Fides the Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, Director of the Center for the Integral Development of the Maronite Patriarchate, "is to create job opportunities for young people and peasants, and at the same time counteract the spectrum of the shortage of basic necessities that represents the most distressing level of the economic crisis in the country".
In the global collapse of the Lebanese economy, the agricultural sector has suffered devastating blows since last April (see Fides, 26/4/2021), when Saudi Arabia closed its markets to Lebanese products, following the discovery in Jeddah of 5.3 million pills of Captagon (a synthetic drug containing amphetamine) in boxes from Lebanon that were supposed to contain pomegranates. The project entitled “Community Farmers Market” has so far involved 120 boys and girls from the Lebanese parish network, together with 150 local farmers and producers, both Christian and Muslim. "In mid-December" reports Father Rouphael "we concluded the first stage of the project, consisting of a series of training courses, in which both young people from the parishes and farmers participated, on packaging and marketing techniques for the products and on the systems of creation of small local markets that will be established in the towns and neighborhoods of the big cities. The young people involved in the project are boys and girls who want to see if there is an opportunity of having a future in the land where they were born, or if really the only way for them is that of emigration".
The project is sponsored by the development cooperation bodies of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Priest Rouphael Zgheib, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Lebanon, was appointed Director of the Center for Integral Development and Coordinator of the youth ministry of the Maronite Patriarchate last November. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 21/12/2021)