By Devin Watkins
“I send a special thought to the dear Lebanese people, in particular to young people, who in recent days have made their cry heard in the face of challenges and the social, moral, and economic problems of the country.”
Pope Francis made that remark following the prayer of the Angelus on Sunday.
Dialogue for solutions
He also urged everyone in Lebanon “to seek the right solutions along the path of dialogue.”
“I pray to the Virgin Mary, Queen of Lebanon, so that – with the support of the international community – that country may continue to be a place of peaceful coexistence and respect for the dignity and freedom of every person”.
The Pope said a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon would be “for the benefit of the entire Middle East Region, which suffers so much.”
Mass protests have brought Lebanon to a standstill for over 10 days, with various estimates putting the number of protesters at 20% of the country’s 5 million citizens.
They accuse the political class of corruption and mismanagement of state finances, which are pushing the country toward economic collapse.
Police scuffle daily with demonstrators, as army troops seek to unblock roads across the country.
Tensions have been building for decades in Lebanon, but it was a government proposal to tax calls made via WhatsApp that set the country ablaze.
Telecommunications costs in the country are sky high, with local calls costing 5 times more than in Jordan and 20 times more than in Egypt.
Many Lebanese use WhatsApp to get around the high cost of a simple phone call.
Lebanon’s government announced an emergency reform package this week, which failed to appease protesters.