Picking Up The Pieces: Unificationists Help Beirut Rebuild
Leaders of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) chapter in Lebanon are seeking help as they join scores of volunteers cleaning up Beirut after a deadly explosion tore through the port city on August 4. Unificationists Thomas and Hermine Schellen have lived in the nation’s capital for 23 years, dedicating their lives to serving Lebanon as missionaries and peacemakers through UPF. Now among countless people affected by the devastating blasts, they are supporting the recovery efforts of community members through a special relief fund.
“My brother and I grew up there and consider it our home,” said Natascha Phillips, the Schellens’ daughter. Phillips lives in the U.S. and organized the Beirut Recovery Fund on GoFundMe to benefit locals. “Many lives were lost, and hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged, including my parents’ apartment. Windows and doors shattered and glass and other objects flew around the room. Miraculously, my parents were protected and not hurt by any of the flying debris.”
In the following days, residents have come together to repair and rebuild, clearing many streets and homes of debris. “As people searched for survivors and treated the wounded, amazing young people went to the worst-hit areas and volunteered to clean up the streets and even help people clear debris out of their homes,” said Phillips. “I’m personally so grateful for all the kind volunteers that helped my aging parents carry heavy items out, remove dangerous glass shards, and even fixed their front door.”
However, the Schellens and many families still have badly damaged homes. The powerful explosion, linked to a massive amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut, has left approximately $5 billion in property damage and an estimated 300,000 people homeless, according to multiple U.S. reports.
“Our prayers go out to all those impacted by this terrible explosion,” said Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) USA President Rev. Demian Dunkley. “We are grateful to the Schellens for initiating this fundraiser. Disasters like these serve as a reminder that we are one family under God, and that God wants to see us love and look out for one another in any way possible.”
Phillips said friends and community members in the U.S. have expressed a desire to offer their support, prompting the fundraiser which has raised more than $3,000 of the $7,000 goal. “My parents would like to use the donations received to help pay for house repairs for severely affected families in the community that they know personally, through their many years of serving people through UPF,” said Phillips.
The Schellens were designated for peace-building work in Lebanon by UPF and FFWPU co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, known as the Mother of Peace, alongside her late husband Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. Lebanon’s cabinet resigned this week after widespread anger over its government inaction and mismanagement, leaving the nation in political limbo.
“As a world power, America has the responsibility to take care of our brothers and sisters in other nations,” said FFWPU North America Chairman Dr. Ki Hoon Kim. “I am grateful for those who are following True Mother’s example, living for the sake of others, and initiating such a fundraiser to help people in suffering and need. Let us inherit True Parents’ legacy and support Lebanon from America as well.”
You can donate to the Beirut Recovery Fund here.