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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Despite ongoing clashes between Hezbollah and Israel that have led to residents fleeing, the Lebanese Christian border village of Qlayaa strives to maintain the Christmas spirit.

The Maronite Saint George Church, nestled amidst lush green fields, resonates with the plea from Father Pierre Rai to embrace joy amid the war. Qlayaa, enduring daily bombings since October 7, lies less than five kilometers from the border where Israeli rockets have been falling.

Father Rai expressed resilience: “We must live and enjoy each thing in its right time.” While the region has seen over 140 deaths on the Lebanese side and a toll on the Israeli side, Christian villages have thus far been spared destruction. In the face of violence, the church has adorned itself with lights, a life-sized manger, and plans for recitals and activities for the community’s children.

A sizable Christmas tree adorned with red ornaments stands in the village square, a stark contrast to the usually bustling streets that are now deserted after nightfall. With only 60 percent of the village population present and no expatriates returning this year, Father Antonios Farah acknowledges the difficult times but emphasizes celebrating Christmas as a form of prayer for peace.

The International Organization for Migration reports that over 72,000 people in Lebanon, mostly in the south, have been displaced due to the hostilities. Despite the challenges, residents like Suzy Salameh, 47, have adorned their homes with Christmas decorations, praying for peace amid the war.

While Salameh remains hopeful for the birth of Jesus to bring peace to the country, not everyone shares the optimism. Layla Wana, sitting under a Christmas tree with her husband, expressed a lack of Christmas spirit, stating, “Some of our children are abroad, others are in Beirut, but we will remain in our house and we will not leave, even if it means we will die here.”

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