• LEBANON \ Jul 18, 2006
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    Churches and convents open their doors to displaced Lebanese and foreigners
Churches and convents open their doors to displaced Lebanese and foreigners Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Abou Abdo said that ?the order must be close to the people who are suffering regardless of whether they are Christian or Muslim.?

He added that ?decent lodgings should be provided to our brothers?, stressing that each superior must open his convent?s doors and heart ?to hear the Lord?s appeal urging us to provide all that is necessary to our brothers?.

Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham appealed to all leaders, bishops and superiors generals of religious congregations to intervene on behalf of these ?brothers hit by the terrible bombing of the enemies of peace?, urging all of them to carry our prophetic deeds in favour of everyone, without fear, ?because God loves those who give with joy?.

The government of the Philippines has also asked that convents and other religious establishments open their doors to the 34,000 Filipino workers living in Lebanon. It came through Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo who made the request a few days ago to Papal Nuncio Fernando Filoni.

Given the large number of Filipinos in Lebanon, the government in Manila wanted safe refuge for its nationals whilst examining ways to get them out either over land through Syria or by sea to Cyprus. But for now, the secretary explained, ?our countrymen will move to areas like Catholic churches or institutions where our embassy can provide them with security?.

Filipino Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs, Esteban Conejos Jr, has informed the governments of Israel and Lebanon of his country?s plan to evacuate Filipino nationals, including possible routes, to guarantee their movement.

Most Filipinos in Lebanon work in Beirut. Some 25,000 are employed as domestic workers; the others work in the hospitality industry or for UN missions.

The church of the Miraculous Medal in Achrafieh and that of St Joseph have already welcomed the first groups of refugees. Female staff members of the Filipino embassy have been moved to Beirut East or Jounieh, in the Christian zone.

Estrelita Hizon, who works at the Bureau helping Filipinos working abroad, said that the situation of her compatriots ?is not that bad? since 99 per cent live in Beirut where they are largely employed by Christian Maronites in the northern part of the city. Israeli planes have instead targeted the southern part of the city.

Filipinos are not the only Asians working in Lebanon trying to leave. Indonesia successfully moved 45 of its citizens out of the country and is planning to do the same for another 35. Some 25 of the 100 or so Thais working in Beirut have made the journey overland to Damascus. Japan is also organising the evacuation of its nationals as well.