Historical Context

The Lebanese Republic (Lebanon) is a state situated on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea; it is bordered by Syria to the west and Israel to the south.

The official language is Arabic; French and English are commonly spoken as well. The capital city is Beirut.

According to the official figures, the population is 6.3 million. 57.3% profess Islam (the vast majority are Shia Muslims), and 32.2% are Christians. Ninety percent of the population is Arabs; the second largest ethnic group is Armenians, which makes 6%. As compared with other Arabic nations, in Lebanon there are more Christians, than in other Arabic countries. On the territory of Lebanon, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, and six other Eastern Catholic Churches function.

Until the 1975-1990 Civil War, Lebanon was a thriving state, and was considered financial and banking capital of the Arabic world by the shares of Christians, for which it has received an unofficial title “Switzerland of the Middle East”. Lebanon stands out in the Arabic world with its religious diversity. In Lebanon, a special governmental system was developed which takes into consideration religious communities in the society. To secure more or less equal representation of the religious communities in the supreme authority, the following system was developed: the President shall be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim; in the Parliament, the representation of Christians and Muslims must be equal. Lebanon is a parliamentary republic.

On the territory of Lebanon Phoenicia was situated, a developed maritime state along the Mediterranean Sea. In the VI century BC, Phoenicia was conquered by the Parthian Empire, during the reign of Cyrus the Great. In 332 BC, Alexander the Macedonian raided on Phoenicia destroying the biggest city of the country, Tyre. After the fall of Alexander’s empire, Lebanon was included in the Seleucids’ Kingdom, which in the I century BC was conquered by Tigran the Great, the King of Armenia. It has become a province of the Greater Armenia, and by the end of the I century BC the province of the Roman Empire.

During the Arabic conquests and Caliphate, Islam came to Lebanon. In the XII AD, Lebanon has become a part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem of the Crusaders; however, in 1261, the Crucaders were driven out by Egypt, and Lebanon remained as part of Egypt until 1516. In 1517, Selim I Sultan annexed the territory to the Ottoman Empire. Lebanon has remained under the Ottoman rule as a part of the Greater Syria for 400 years. After the defeat and fall of the Ottoman Empire during the World War I, the territory of Lebanon was ruled by France, under the Syrian Mandate. Only in 1926, Lebanon has become a separate territorial entity, though ruled by the Syrian Mandate.

Currently the situation in Lebanon is not enviable. Because of the war in the neighboring Syria, thousands of refugees immigrate to the country. According to the official figures, last year the number of Syrian refugees was 356.000, and this year it has reached to 1 million. However, according to non-official figures, the real number of refugees exceeds the estimated numbers several times, as not all are registered while passing the border. In Lebanon, there are 400.000 Syrian schoolchildren (which is twice as much as the number of the schoolchildren of Lebanon), who attend state schools. The hospitals already work beyond their abilities.

The situation of the refugees is terrible. Basically they are taken care of by international humanitarian organizations, but anyway, it is not enough to provide satisfactory conditions of life for them. Lebanon does not have ability to provide food and shelter to so many refugees, and now the country is on the verge of social calamity. If the international community fails to take steps to solve this issue shortly, then soon it will have to support not only the Syrian refugees, but the Lebanese people as well. It is a very important issue, which needs immediate solution. Beside the Syrian refugees, 50.000 of which arrive to Lebanon each week, there are still 400.000 Palestinian refugees in the country.

In the Bible, different territories and regions of Lebanon are mentioned many times. One is Sidon (after the name of the first son of Canaan in Genesis 10.15). During the conquest of Canaan by Israel, Sidon is already called great (Joshua 19.28). Another Phoenician city is Tyre (Joshua 19.29, Psalm 82.8, 86.4). These were the northern borders of the territory, where Israel was to resettle (Judges 3:3). During the rule of King Solomon, Sidon ruled over Lebanon and made wealth by selling the cedars of Lebanon (1 Kings 5:6). At that time, Hiram the king of Tyre was a well-known Phoenician ruler (1 Kings 5.1): Tyre used to trade with many islands (Ezekiel 27.3); it ruled from Sidon and used to teach sailing. The marriage of Ahab and Jezebel (the daughter of a Sidonian king Ethbaal) was expected to have political significance, but it had destructive influence on the faith of Israel. The temple of Baal was built in Samaria (1 Kings 16:32). Elijah the Prophet was the one fighting the influence of Phoenicia. In the Zareptah of Sidon, the miracle of the barrel and cruse, which were not wasted, took place (1 Kings 17.14).

In the New Testament, sometimes Phoenicia is called by its name (Acts 11:19, 15:3) and sometimes it is pointed as the borders of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24), where, according to the Gospel, Christ drove out a demon from the daughter of a Syrophenician woman (Mark 7.26).


Christian Context