AAA- and ANCA-backed letter on aid to Lebanon suppoxrted by 89 members of U.S. Congress, including 47 Members of Armenian Caucus
Posted on August. 9. 2020
Washington, D.C. – In the aftermath of a powerful August 4th explosion in Beirut, which has left at least 200 dead, 7,000 injured, and hundreds of Armenian business, homes, and community institutions devastated, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and Armenian National Committe of America welcomed a bipartisan letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urging additional U.S. assistance to Lebanon “to address the immediate humanitarian crisis facing the country, aid in the recovery effort – including medical care and treatment for the injured and efforts for cleanup of the blast site and other impacted areas.”
The Assembly-and ANCA-backed letter was spearheaded by Members of the U.S.-Lebanon Friendship Caucus including Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Garret Graves (R-LA), and Donna Shalala (D-FL). The letter garnered the bipartisan support of 89 Members, comprised of 47 Members of the Armenian Caucus, including caucus leaders Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The letter also stated in part: “Given the vast economic impact from the damage to the Beirut port, the disruption of supplies for imported goods, and the loss of almost 80 percent of Lebanon’s grain and wheat reserves, continued American commitment to the Lebanese people will help address the estimated billions of dollars in losses and support long term stability in Lebanon and the region.”
Armenian populated areas in capital Beirut such as Eshrefieh, Gemeyzi, Mar-Mikael, Khalil Bedewi as well as the independent Lebanese Armenian Municipality of Bourj-Hammoud, have been hit hard, with hundreds of businesses, commercial centers, churches, community centers, schools, and homes badly damaged and requiring significant reconstruction before they can serve the population. Lebanon Armenian community leading individuals confirmed that at least 11 Armenians have been killed and over 250 injured as a result of the blast which, according to initial news accounts, was caused by the detonation of more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a warehouse near the Lebanon port since 2014. Lebanon relief organizations, including the Armenian Relief Society of Lebanon, have been working non-stop to help the injured, with hospitals overloaded with victims.
“The horrific explosion in Beirut earlier this week and its impact have been felt across the globe. We welcome and commend this bipartisan initiative to ensure additional and immediate humanitarian relief,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Lebanon holds a special place in our hearts and minds with its religious, educational, cultural and social institutions all serving the Armenian community and beyond. It is inspiring to see everyone coming together to help in whatever way they can. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Lebanon,” Ardouny continued.
In a nationwide action campaign – anca.org/Lebanon – launched less than 24-hours after the blast, the ANCA is calling for immediate emergency relief. “As an American with connections to Armenians in Lebanon and who cares deeply about all the diverse communities that make up this great nation, I encourage you to work with your Congressional colleagues to ensure that U.S. and international assistance reaches all at-risk population, including Armenians and other Christians.,” notes the grassroots letter to Congressional leaders. The message reminds elected officials that “Lebanon warmly welcomed survivors of Ottoman Turkey’s WWI-era genocide of millions of Christians, including Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and Armenians. To this day, these communities and many others – of all faiths and backgrounds – call Lebanon home. In a Middle East that is – sadly – becoming less and less diverse, Lebanon stands out as a model of pluralism, tolerance, and co-existence.”
The disaster comes amid Lebanon’s efforts to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and dire economic developments in the country.