High-quality education is one of the major cornerstones for any country's progress and advancement in all walks of life, whereby without attaining such a goal nations would sink into the abyss of stagnation with a bleak future looming in the horizon. Furthermore, a nation with people of low-quality education can never compete with other nations that exploit knowledge in the service and prosperity of their peoples.
Over the years, the Catholic Church has embarked on a plan to promote the quality of life in various parts of the world by establishing educational institutions, namely schools and universities, with a sincere intention to serve humanity and heal the wounds incurred by ignorance which leads to various forms of violence, unemployment, wars, food-insufficiency, and diseases among others.
In a message addressed to a conference held by the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC) on December 1, His Holiness Pope Francis says that "Catholic education programs and resources must give voice to a Word that surpasses and transcends us, and must form individuals in their integrity, creating bridges of dialogue between people of all faiths."
In this regard, Pope's words ascertain the fact that helps " create bridges of dialogue between people of all faiths." Throughout his trips, the Pope called for creating bridges of dialogue among all peoples of the world who follow different faiths being a step leading to the entrenchment of peace based on high-level dialogue that breeds common living and mutual respect.
Lord Jesus Christ was the divine teacher who instilled in humanity the teachings relevant to love and peace. And this is clearly revealed in His noble and divine words expressed throughout His life on Earth as they are as well clearly revealed in His Beatitudes.
The importance of education may bring us to consider the recent decline of education in Lebanon... a country that has come under harsh economic pressures that wreaked havoc on one of the most important bases of progress in any country.
With reports stating that 40 percent of Lebanon's total budget is spent just on electricity, teachers work two or three jobs to eke out a living. How can this be done?
It is important to underline a key fact that without high-quality education, a people has no future, and without Christian education in Lebanon in particular, the future of Christianity in the Middle East itself is in peril and the Christian presence as a whole is jeopardized.
This was recently highlighted by Melkite Fr. Youssef Nasr, secretary-general of Lebanon’s Catholic schools, who said that the 2022 school year was opening amid “a major life and existential crisis that stifles the breath of the entire nation and threatens the future of education.” He added that donors, both local and international, played “an important role in keeping the doors of our schools open.”
In Lebanon, religious education takes place mainly in Catholic schools. If Catholic schools and teachers begin to disappear due to lack of financial means, the demographic balance will change rapidly. The country’s financial collapse has made it impossible for many parents to pay tuition fees.
As Lebanon is teetering on the abyss of a socioeconomic crisis, the future of Catholic schools is at risk. Pope Francis has supported scholarships in Lebanon as country faces ‘severe crisis’, whereby on May 14, 2020 he donated $200,000 to support 400 scholarships in Lebanon in an expression of his concern for the country's young people.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has also been exerting huge efforts to keep educational institutions in Lebanon afloat by launching educational initiatives in a country which is undergoing a political and economic crisis.
In response to the catastrophic economic crisis and soaring Christian migration, ACN launched an aid program enabling 30,000 pupils and 6,000 teachers to return to Lebanese Christian schools. Schools have been without paper, pens and textbooks. Teachers are few, the children are hungry, and electricity is available only two hours per day.
Under such circumstances it is extremely important to highlight this chronic problem that adversely affects a whole nation. Too much money is being spent on wars and the production of destructive weaponry. His Holiness Pope Frances has touched on this issue. During a meeting with a delegation from the “Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano"on December 5, 2022 he spoke of his pain for the war in Ukraine and for other wars wounding humanity and reiterates his condemnation of the armaments race and the testing of weapons that takes place “at the expense of people who are dying.”
He stressed “if no weapons were made for a year, hunger in the world would end,” because "it's the biggest industry.” Consequently, when hunger is eliminated, enough funds would also be available that would promote all indispensable social needs including education.
May the world leaders come to their senses, heed the views expressed by Pope Francis, and help alleviate Lebanon's suffering including all issues relevant to education.