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Lebanon

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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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    • “We ask all Christians and members of other faiths to reconsider their own beliefs and join Hinduism.” Krishna Hari Baskota, secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister in Nepal, was speaking about the application process for a new identity card that will show citizens’ religious affiliation. Christians and members of other minorities will be subjected to greater scrutiny before obtaining the official documents and will be asked to reiterate their faith. One Christian rights activist said that the government is trying to discourage people from converting from Hinduism. Pray that the Nepalese authorities will not discriminate against Christians but will treat them on equal terms with the Hindu majority. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 17 hours ago

    • Lift up to the Lord a group of Christians in Pali village, Jharkhand state, India, who were attacked by Hindu extremists on two consecutive days in an effort to force them to convert to Hinduism. On 4 March, the offenders stormed into the home of Pastor Tilas Bedia, beat the Christians present and threatened to kill them if they continued to follow Christ. The following morning, a mob dragged 15 Christians from their homes, told them to convert back to Hinduism and beat them. The pastor and two others were paraded half-naked to the outskirts of the village. Adding insult to injury, a case of forcible conversion was subsequently registered against the pastor and three other Christians. Pray that the Lord will give them all the strength to stand firm in the face of such opposition. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Christians in the village of Gudrikia, Kandhamal district, who lost their church building in the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Orissa state, India. Earlier this year, they planned to rebuild the church, and on 11 March, they took the stones they had bought to the site to start the work. But they were blocked by a group of Hindu fundamentalists, who threatened them. The previous church building had been burnt down, and the land where it once stood is now used by Hindus for farming. The latest incident highlights the ongoing hostility towards Christians in the area. Pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of Hindu extremists in India, and that they will allow Christians to practise their faith in freedom and peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Christians and other non-Hindus in India following the landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the country’s general election. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. The party has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states where it holds power have generally experienced a rise in anti- Christian violence. The party was in charge of Orissa state during the horrendous anti-Christian riots of 2007-08. It has also pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end “proselytising”; this may be used to restrict legitimate Christian evangelism. Pray that the new government will give equal rights to all India’s citizens and provide effective protection for Christians, Muslims and others from Hindu extremism. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we lift up to You today the heartbroken family of Mary Sameh George, a young Christian woman who was killed in an Islamist attack on a church in Egypt. We pray that You will comfort them and give them Your peace. We thank You that Mary was not ashamed to make her allegiance to You known, even taking the risk of provoking murderous anger against herself. We pray also for the families of three others who were killed in this attack at a church in Ain Shams, a suburb of Cairo, on 28 March. Lord God, may the hostility of Muslim Brotherhood supporters towards Christians in Egypt be restrained. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

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