'My heart is in a million pieces:' Lebanese Montrealers hope for change after Beirut explosion
MONTREAL -- Montreal's Lebanese community remains in shock in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut that killed over 150 people.
Musician and filmmaker Beatrice Moukhaiber said she remains worried for family and friends in Beirut and has taken solace in music.
“My music revolves around all that is happening and the hurt I feel when I see my country going down like this,” she said.
Her friend Nadine Hajjar said being so far from Lebanon, which was undergoing political unrest even before the blast, has been hard.
“I'm overwhelmed, I'm in shock, my heart is in a million pieces,” she said.
Phil Manasseh, a musician in the group Wake Island, noted that one heavily affected part of Beirut is also home to many artists and studios and some of hardest hit neighbourhoods were home to some of the poorest residents.
“The fact that there's a blast brings attention. It's easy, it's newsworthy, it's viral, but a week ago I could have made the same argument that a lot of help is needed because the government was literally starving people,” he said.
His bandmate, Nadim Maghzal, said watching events unfold has him feeling “helpless.”
“(There's) a desire to be on the ground right now, the desire to be angry at the government, the desire to want to tear it down,” he said.
While Manasseh said he is glad the Canadian government is sending aid directly to NGOs like the Lebanese Red Cross, instead of to the Lebanese government, he would like to see stronger action in Canada’s foreign policy.
“We want Canada to stop recognizing the [Lebanese] government as legit and to clean up the presence of this government in Canada. We’re talking the consuls, the Ambassadors, the corrupt parties of Lebanon have offices here. I get phone calls from them every election urging me to vote for this thug or that thug.”
Manasseh and Maghzal have been among the protesters who gathered outside the Lebanese consulate, denouncing government corruption and inaction. The pair said they've donated money to fundraisiers such as Impact Lebanon and urged others to do the same.
“I'm asking everyone I know that can help, I know it's a year where everyone's donating left and right but this is a real, real humanitarian crisis,” said Manasseh.
Hajjar sounded a cautionaly optimistic note, that the world might turn it's eyes to a country that faced its share of tragedy over the past decades.
“I think this is the first time in 30 years that Lebanon's voice is really being heard,” she said.
The Beirut & Beyond International Festival organizers have published a list of artists people can support if they want to help.