A brief interview with Fr. Fadi Philip
SPECIAL TO THE CHALDEAN NEWS
Continued from January 2018
From December 26 to January 4, a group of missionaries traveled to Lebanon to give medical and spiritual aid to displaced Christians who have been forced to leave their homes due to wars and persecution. The team was led by Fr. Fadi Philip, a Chaldean Catholic priest and the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Warren, Michigan. His team traveled throughout Lebanon and gave them much needed medical and spiritual support. In addition to Fr. Fadi, the team includes five medical doctors: Ranin Paolus, M.D.; Maha Bishara, D.M.D.; Sara Alsakka, Michael Haddow, D.M.D.; and Rand Touma, M.D. The following is an interview with Fr. Fadi after he had returned from the mission trip:
Marcus: What was the purpose of the spiritual and medical mission trip to Lebanon?
Fr. Fadi: This mission trip, done on behalf of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle in the USA helped to show our brothers and sisters who are living as refugees in Lebanon that they are not forgotten — that there are people who still love them, care for them, and want to help them. While groups like the United Nations and Caritas are at work in the area, their resources seem to be quite limited, meaning that the need of many of the refugees is still not being met adequately.
There were five physicians who had traveled with me (Ranin Paolus, M.D, Maha Bishara, D.M.D, Sara Alsakka, Michael Haddow, D.M.D, and Rand Touma, M.D) to Lebanon, and in a short amount of time, they were able to perform medical services to around 400 patients as well as provide 200 more patients with dental procedures. Often times, with the high cost of living in Lebanon and the lack of employment, refugees struggle just to make ends meet with providing food and shelter for their families that to even think of medical and dental care is a distant possibility for them, no matter how badly it is needed. They simply do not have the money. I was also able to meet with many refugees and was able to provide them with the sacraments as well as Bible and faith studies.
Marcus: What is life like for the refugees in Lebanon?
Fr. Fadi: Many of the refugees come from villages in Iraq that have been destroyed by ISIS or lost. This leaves many of them with little or no desire to return to Iraq but to Western countries where they will be able to start a new life.
Most of the Christian refugee families live in neighborhoods with Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in Syria. The neighborhoods are filled with drugs, drug dealers, and crime, making it dangerous for all who are living in the neighborhood, especially families. There have been some incidents where children have been sexually assaulted. Many of the families cannot find employment and some of the Lebanese employers, taking advantage of the desperate situation of the refugees, prefer to employ young people—generally females—who are oftentimes sexually abused at work. These young girls have no choice but to continue to work under these conditions in order to provide their families with food and a place to live. This was one of the most difficult things for me to witness on this mission trip. One cannot even begin to imagine the torture and pain that these girls must endure just to survive and to be able to help provide for their families. No one should ever have to experience or live through that.
Marcus: What are other examples of the living conditions?
Fr. Fadi: Our people are forced to live in these areas as the cost of rent is significantly cheaper compared to other areas, although the rent in these areas is still not cheap, as it averages to about $350- $400 a month, which is quite expensive when most of them cannot find work and are already struggling with providing for the basic necessities for their families. Most of these places that they live in are too small for families, as most consist of a single room where the entire family lives, eats, and sleeps. Some families even live in commercial buildings that are not designed to house people but rather for small convenience stores. Many of these living spaces are in terrible condition, as the rooms that these families would be living in were filled with mold and other dangerous conditions. The conditions of these living spaces with which these families live in seem to be the cause of many health problems of the refugees. For example, there was a family of six that I had visited who lived in one of these small living spaces that was plagued with mold and other problems. The father of the family has cancer, the mother constantly has stomach problems, the one of the children had breakouts and rashes all over their skin. Another had a disease of the bones, and another has a constant ear infection. Due to the financial hardship that this family is going through, they cannot afford any medical care whatsoever.
Marcus: How is our Eparchy helping and what can we do as a community to help the refugees in Lebanon?
Fr. Fadi: There are many ways to help the refugees in Lebanon. We are currently trying to help those families living in dangerous areas to move into areas that are much safer for families. The Eparchy will try to provide them with medical and dental care at least twice a year to help relieve them from some of the stress of trying to save up for medical care and from some of the ailments that they suffer from. We are also trying to help support the Missionaries of Charity (the order of Mother Teresa) in the area, as they serve food to refugees daily. We are also trying to support the work of a priest in Lebanon who works to provide free groceries, meals, and clothes weekly to the refugees.
The refugees in Lebanon that I had visited were very grateful for all of the assistance that they had received from their brothers and sisters in the U.S., and while our Eparchy has already done a lot to help the refugees in Lebanon, there is still much, much more that is needed. Adopt a Refugee already helps around 600 families in Lebanon, but there are still many more families that need help and the donations that have already been made through Adopt a Refugee go a long way in assisting our brothers and sisters. MERCI (a part of Chaldean Catholic Charities) also tries to help families to afford medications and medical services. Donating to either of these organizations as they continue their honorable work is a great way for our community to help those in need.
For more information on how to donate, visit donate.HelpIraq.org. To donate specifically to the medical and spiritual missions to Lebanon, visit donate.HelpIraq.org and choose “Lebanon Mission.”