CWS Director Visits Former "Occupied Zone" In South Lebanon
October 12, 2000, NEW YORK CITY Fruit fly traps and irrigation ditches were highlights of an October 6 visit to South Lebanon by the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World Service.
These tools of hope are helping people get back on their feet in that region, where a 22-year occupation by the Israeli army left behind widespread devastation when it ended in May.
South Lebanon is a fertile agricultural land, but the occupation left most fields dried out or burned barren. Most of the regions 300,000 residents were forced to flee. Some who remained survived by allying themselves with the occupying power, either working for Israel or joining the militia of the South Lebanon Army, which Israel supported.
Then, on May 24, 2000, the occupation ended, and people began returning home to their damaged and destroyed villages. Awaiting them were destroyed or occupied homes and churches; few medical services; closed schools and factories; water wells that had been blown up or filled in; burned or bulldozed orchards, and neglected land, littered with land mines and explosives left behind by the Israeli army.
The Middle East Council of Churches, a long-time Church World Service partner, conducted an assessment of the most urgent needs, and launched a program of assistance in the form of food supplies, medical assistance, water and sanitation projects, agricultural assistance, income generation, training, peace and reconciliation activities and campaigns on the issue of land mines.
During the 22 years of occupation, farmers who remained were cut off from their agricultural markets. The MECC is helping farmers restore their orchards and rebuild irrigation canals from spring-fed reservoirs so that they can resume farming.
Through our regional partner, the Middle East Council of Churches, Church World Service has been providing assistance to the people of South Lebanon. I am impressed by the way the Middle East Council of Churches is reaching out to the people of South Lebanon in a sensitive and difficult situation, the Rev. McCullough said.
At the same time, he said, I am haunted by the extraordinary circumstances under which the remaining few people of South Lebanon have been forced to live. One cannot help but hope for peace, justice, and normalcy.
The program of relief, reconstruction and development has as its overall goal to enable the most vulnerable of the affected population to cope with the effects of war. These include women, children, elderly persons and families who have no sources of income, along with returning displaced families.
The Rev. McCullough, on October 6, visited several projects with MECC staff member Ghaith Maalouf. Church World Service is supporting the work through ACT (Action by Churches Together), which coordinates global ecumenical emergency response.
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