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Lebanon

leabanon-4X3.jpg
A map showing the position of Lebanon

Lebanon is the only Arab state that is not officially Muslim and has the highest proportion of Christians in its population of any country in the Middle East: around 32%. But this figure reflects a major decline from the 1970s, when Christians comprised a slight majority; emigration prompted by several wars and the small size of Christian families has caused their numbers to fall significantly.

Lebanon is one of the most complex countries in the Middle East, its population composed of a mixture of Christian communities, Sunni Muslims, Twelver Shi’a Muslims, Druze and others. The civil war of 1975-1990 has left an ongoing legacy of struggle for political power along sectarian lines.  

The constitution establishes a balance of power among the major religious groups, which is intended to prevent any one group from becoming dominant: the president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament must be Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shia Muslim, respectively; Christians and Muslims must be represented equally in parliament, the cabinet, and high-level civil service positions. But the Christian influence is weakening as Islam gains strength.

Some religious groups, including unregistered Protestant ones, are not officially recognised and consequently do not qualify for certain government positions. But they are allowed to practise their faith freely.

Despite the tensions between the different groups, religious freedom is largely upheld. Unlike in other countries in the Middle East, there are no legal restrictions on evangelism and people are free to change their religion on their identity cards and official registry documents. It is nevertheless very costly for a Muslim to convert to Christianity.

Lebanon remains a place of refuge for those fleeing religious persecution. Christians from Iraq, Egypt, Sudan and more recently Syria have gone to the country to escape discrimination and violence in their homeland.  

The conflict in Syria has been spilling over into Lebanon, inflaming underlying sectarian tensions. Fighters from the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah have helped shore up Syrian President Assad’s forces, while The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaeda-linked militant group, has been launching attacks in Lebanon.

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Daily prayer

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  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:17

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