The babies of Beirut

Anna Grummitt reflects on a photo of a nurse holding three newborn babies after the Beirut blast, and finding hope amidst tragedy.

The news of Tuesday’s horrific explosion in Beirut has affected me much more than I expected.

Maybe it’s because the footage of the blast was just so powerful, so terrifying. Or it might be because just a few nights earlier I’d had a vivid nightmare about something eerily similar happening in Sydney.

Or maybe it’s because the blast felt like the final straw in a year that has been characterised not by disaster after disaster, but disaster upon disaster. This is certainly the case for Lebanon, which was already dealing with skyrocketing inflation, political instability, and, of course, COVID-19.

But as I read articles about the tragedy, one photo stood out – a glimmer of hope amidst so much pain. It was the image of a nurse, cradling three tiny newborns, after the blast ripped through a Beirut hospital. While several people there died, these little ones – and their parents – were miraculously saved.

In the last week, five couples I know have welcomed new babies into their families. And seeing pictures of these newborns – and the Lebanon trio – has filled me with a sense of hope. Hope that these babies will grow up safely and that the explosion, and coronavirus, will be things they hear about, but not remember. Hope that at least some things in the world will be better for them – and better for what they’ll contribute to it.

The road to recovery after 2020 will be gruelling and long – in Lebanon, and all over the world. But if my faith teaches me anything, it’s that there’s reason to hope in and for babies, because at the heart of the Christian story is the triumphant proclamation, full of hope: “For unto us a child is born.”