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Lebanon profile

September 2006

Lebanon is located north of Israel at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and shares a border with Syria. It is a beautiful land of plains and mountains, with about 3.8 million inhabitants, nearly all Arab.

Lebanon was once wealthy — an economic centre of the Middle East — but decades of war have destroyed its economy. Some rebuilding has taken place in recent years, but today Lebanon is a shadow of its former self.

When Lebanon gained independence during World War II, power was apportioned among the various religious groups based on size. At that time, professing Christians were the largest group. Then an influx of Muslims upset the balance of power and led to a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990. After the war, Lebanon found itself caught at different times in hostilities between Israel and Middle Eastern Arab states. This has caused continued instability.

Islam is now the majority religion (60%) but remarkably Lebanon grants freedom of religion. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches account for over one third of the population. Evangelicals number less than 1%. Many Christians have left the country over the last 25 years.

Lebanon presents a unique opportunity to evangelise Arab Muslims, as missionaries are allowed to minister in the country. Muslims face social pressure not to convert, but they do not face the death penalty for doing so as they would in most Arab nations. Some Muslims who come to Christ in other Arab lands move to Lebanon for safety.

Evangelical churches have struggled to grow over the years, and there is a shortage of trained pastors. Expatriate workers have left during previous conflicts, but some have returned.

Lebanon was once the base for numerous Christian ministries working throughout the Middle East. The war disrupted most of that work, but until very recently it has slowly been rebuilding.
 

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