At its Annual Meeting, Friends in the European and Middle Eastern Section of FWCC were very moved by the powerful presentation about Friends in the Lebanon, and about Brummana High School, given by Sami Cortas, Clerk of Brummana Meeting – known to Irish Friends – and David Gray, the school’s Principal.
Founded in 1873, with Irish Friends at times on its staff, it has long been a beacon of light in times of perennial crisis in the country, attracting students of all faiths and background. This diversity and its promotion of tolerance and peaceful resolution have been central to its academic excellence and pastoral compassion. Principal David Gray emphasises that these Quaker values continue to guide its response to the struggles today and its pivotal importance for the future of an ailing country.
David writes, “The August the 4th explosion in Beirut, which ripped out the heart of the city, rendered 300,000 people homeless and killed and maimed thousands, brought to the attention of the world a country which was floundering amidst a sea of troubles. Little Lebanon, surrounded by war torn and impoverished Syria, from which it has received over a million refugees, and Israel, did not have its problems to seek.
In the past 12 months the Lebanese Lira has lost 90% of its value, inflation is rampant, unemployment runs at 50% and 60% of the population lives below the poverty line. And of course, COVID-19, which has raged out of control in a country which has operated without a government for over a year, has taken its toll on a weary, exhausted, and despairing people. Businesses have closed, schools are physically closed, and those who have had the capacity to leave the country have done so for a better life elsewhere.
Yet Lebanon is a beautiful place and a jewel in the Middle Eastern crown, once the home of Middle Eastern banking and free enterprise and still a champion of education as a means to prosperity and to success. At the centre of this jewel lies Brummana High School.
Today it is running a comprehensive education and welfare programme online for its 1250 strong population, aged three to 18, continuing to promote its Quaker values and striving to provide for its families who have been hit hard by all of Lebanon’s woes, through its beleaguered, financial aid scheme.”
Senior BHS students have also commented in recent weeks. Head Prefect Kelly Kanaan emphasised how, despite extremes challenges, “BHS has navigated the world of online education this year, generated successful student-led projects (in April the online Model United Nations Conference hosted 170 student delegates from six countries and 26 schools) and built international bonds and relationships with students abroad.” Yet, as Francesco Jarjoura, Student Council President, said, “Help is now needed to support the school families struggling due to the multiple crises.”
The projected school shortfall this year is £750,000. In July, the Quaker International Education Trust will be running a campaign to raise money to support. Last year QuIET raised £30,000 from its summer appeal. this year we need to double that. An Appeal is going out in The Friend, and brochures distributed. Please think about how you or your Meeting can assist the school by making a donation which will, however small, help to save the education of a child whose future depends on your generosity and who will, through the Quaker education provided, be able to begin to mend the broken society which is so desperately evident in the country today. Without your support, many children who could do much will miss out and flounder where otherwise they might flourish.