Having lived in Lebanon, I am shocked at this explosion tragedy in a nation I came to love
I moved to Lebanon 10 years ago to teach for a year.
It’s a country I fell in love with due to its extraordinary places and wonderful, hospitable people.
Beirut is a city I knew well. I spent my weekends in the downtown area close to the port – the epicentre of the explosions.
The apocalyptic scenes, the loss of life and devastation to the lives of the people who live in that city that has been through so much are just unfathomable.
I have friends there who are thankfully safe but are now overwhelmed by the task of having to rebuild their lives in a city that has lost hundreds of people, suffered thousands of injuries and left hundreds of thousands homeless, all under the weight of the pandemic, a severe economic crisis and crisis of government.
Members of the Lebanese community in Belfast who I have spoken to feel helpless and even more distant from their loved ones back home. To show solidarity to our Lebanese residents, to their friends and family back in Lebanon and to the people of Beirut, I am thankful we were able to provide a symbol of solidarity by lighting Belfast City Hall in the colours of the Lebanese flag to mark their day of mourning on Wednesday. It was a message that said: we stand with you in your grief and pain, in solidarity and love from Belfast to Beirut.
From feedback I have received, I know that show of solidarity was deeply appreciated.
Belfast and Beirut are two cities so often placed in the same sentence as two cities having experienced sectarian conflict and division. We now need to ensure Belfast stands by the people of Beirut as they begin the process of rebuilding their city when they need our help the most.
Ross McMullan, Alliance councillor, Belfast City Council
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