Since the start of the war in Syria, in 2012, nearly 1.5 million Syrians have fled the conflict in their country for Lebanon. To accommodate them, refugee camps have been set up, but the living conditions are very precarious.
In Lebanon, debates around the acceptance of refugees are explosive. In addition to religious and cultural tensions, the economic and social load they represent are perceived by a large section of the population as an unacceptable burden. Today, a vast majority of Lebanese people openly express their frustration and anger at this situation, which is seen by many as an invasion.
But there are many Lebanese associations that help these refugees. One of these associations is the Order of Malta. This Christian and apolitical humanitarian agency has for sole objective to protect the dignity of each human being while respecting his or her differences.
Doctor Jamal Ismail, a Shiite doctor, has been involved with the Order of Malta for more than 25 years. These days, he travels from camp to camp in the Bekaa Plain to provide care for Sunni Syrian refugees.
Doctor Jamal works tirelessly to provide care for his patients: 12 hours a day, at an age when many yearn for a quite retirement. His sense of duty is impressive. Doctor Jamal emanates a quiet strength, a strong presence, the kind that great doctors develop after many years of practice.
The only thing that matters to him is the need for care, regardless of wealth, religion or gender. If a person needs care, he will help them.
Doctor Jamal's very modest origins have undoubtedly shaped his outlook on others. In the destitute poor children of the camps, it is a his own childhood that he rediscovers.
Refusing to look at them from an exclusively political point of view, as is the case for a large part of the Lebanese population, Doctor Jamal no longer sees Syrians, Palestinians, Lebanese, Christians, Shiites or Sunnis, but only patients, human beings to be cared for and soothed.
Beyond the politics and tensions that run through the Arab world between Shiites and Sunnis, it is the human being that Doctor Jamal relates to through his work. His patients regain their dignity as women and men, who are listened to in their physical and psychological distress. And it is with pride that he speaks of the relationship of trust that exists between him and his patients.