The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Praying for strength

Contact and Resource Center helps people with disabilities after war in Lebanon

Ibrahim Abdallah was 20 yards from the bridge when the bombing started.

On July 12, 2006, he was returning to Beirut from Syria when Israeli warplanes began to target the Mdairej bridge, the tallest in the Middle East. His driver refused to continue.

“I had to go to Beirut to be with my family,” Abdallah said.

Abdallah, who is blind, eventually found another driver near the bridge who agreed to drive there using side roads. Once in his Beirut apartment, Abdallah made plans for his parents to evacuate their home in Khiyam in south Lebanon.

“I paid a taxi driver lots of money to get them out,” Abdallah said. His parents’ home was destroyed shortly after they fled.

When the bombing began in Dahieh, the southern Beirut neighborhood where Abdallah lives, he decided to wait it out in his apartment.

Contact and Resource Center director
Contact and Resource Center director Agnes Wakim Dagher (right) visits Imm Michel to deliver a gift of dried yogurt and check in on the family. Both of Imm Michel’s children are blind.

“I don’t get scared easily, but I was scared when I [found] my sister sitting under a blanket in a corner and shaking,” he said. “I told her we had to get out of there.”

Along the way, Abdallah helped other displaced people with disabilities find transport. Of the 1.2 million displaced, 10,000 were people with disabilities, he said. Many were evacuated without their wheelchairs, crutches or other assistive devices.

Abdallah is project coordinator for Contact and Resource Center, an ELCA companion institution in Lebanon that works among people with disabilities. Lutheran pastor Dennis Hilgendorf started the center in 1978 to help those affected by Lebanon’s civil war.

After last summer’s 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, the center set up relief points throughout south Lebanon as well as north of Beirut, where many people fled.

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