Faith Perspective

BEIRUT AND MYANMAR

In Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980’s there was a dividing line that separated the Christian and Muslim parts of the city. To cross it meant risking your life. However, Maryknoll Brother John Beeching decided that he still needed to cross it. He had come to the Middle East to work with boys detained in Yemen’s prisons. Before he could go to Yemen he needed to learn Arabic which is why he found himself in Beirut. The city had two colleges he could attend for language studies. He started at the Jesuit College on the Christian side, but his education suffered from the trauma he experienced every day at school. On two occasions a car bomb had exploded so close to the school that it knocked him to the ground. Daily, the students dodged a sniper who shot at them as they left their classrooms. So Br. John decided that he would risk crossing the line to attend Beirut College. At least while he was in class, it was more peaceful. He was at school on the Muslim side when full war broke out. Together with a family from his school he made his way back to the Christian side. When they crossed the line they wrapped the children in mattresses and ran as fast as they could. He was trapped in the city for the next few days with war wagging around him. Mortar shells had come through the ceiling of his house and there were tanks in the front yard. He managed to escape the city but he could not escape the trauma inflicted by war.

 
This experience of suffering and war has helped Br. John accompany the people he encounters in his current mission. In 1990 he went to Thailand where he found himself working with refugees who had escaped the violence of Myanmar. He said, “Nothing happens by accident, everything is a graced moment in life. It had not been my intention to work with the refugees; it happened by accident.” He was teaching English when a Monk asked him to help the Monks who were arriving from Myanmar. He found that when new monks and refugees arrived, he could tell from eye contact with them, who had been deeply traumatized, as he had been in Beirut. He noted that these people seek him out to talk. Perhaps they too see the trauma he had experienced in his eyes. He spends his days helping with medical needs and teaching English to the Monks and refugees and he listens. He listens to the brutal stories of war the refugees share with him while recalling his own pain and his own healing. Bro. John believes that through his experiences in Beirut God was preparing him for his current ministry He says, “I was healed by my trauma in Beirut through the love and support of my Maryknoll community.” Now it is Br. John who offers acceptance, support, and love to the refugees as they began to heal from the trauma they endured in Myanmar.

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