|Republic of Lebanon|
Area 10,230 sq.km. A fertile, mountainous state in the East Mediterranean. An enclave between Israel and Syria. The site of ancient Phoenicia.
During the civil war 900,000 emigrated and 170,000 were killed.
Capital Beirut 2,050,000. Over 60% live in the Beirut area. Urbanites 87%.
Other Arab 24%. Syrian 400,000 1,000,000 (many temporary workers); Palestinian 300,000; Egyptian 50,000.
Other 8.5%. Armenian 180,000; Persian 50,000; Kurd 20,000; Assyrian 16,000.
Literacy 92%. Official language Arabic; French and English are widely used. All languages 4. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 2por.
Lebanon was the commercial hub of the Middle East until the civil war reduced Beirut to rubble and ruined its profitable trading, banking and tourist industries. Recovery began in 1992 but has been slowed by both Israeli occupation of the south and successions of retaliatory bombings until 2000. Beirut is being rebuilt, but the cost is reckoned at $US25 billion. Commercial confidence is returning but there remains much poverty and destitution. Debt servicing consumes 45% of the GNP. HDI 0.749; 69th/174. Public debt 140% of GNP. Income/person $3,350 (11% of USA).
French-mandated territory 1919-1945. Independent in 1943 as a republic, with a constitution based on a delicate balance related to the size of the 18 recognized religious communities. The influx of 300,000 Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 1976 upset the status quo, precipitating the 1975-1990 civil war with deep involvement of many Middle Eastern and Western forces, too. The Palestinians seized south Lebanon only to have their power broken by Israeli invasion and occupation (1982-85). Shi’a Muslim and Druze militia improved their political leverage at the expense of the Christians in the subsequent years of bitter fighting and hostage-taking. The Syrians manipulated for their own ends the complex medley of warring factions. The Syrian army imposed a measure of peace in 1990 and opened the way for the Taif agreement of 1990/91 and a new Lebanese government. Lebanon has since had a measure of peace, but only a nominal internal independence with the Syrian army controlling 90% and Israel 10% of the country. It is hoped the total Israeli withdrawal in 2000 will also be followed by the Syrians who control all security, foreign policy, political leadership and the media. Real progress is also hampered by the constant need to balance the country’s religious factions and their rights at every level.
Freedom of religion; the only Arab state that is not officially Muslim. The distribution of power according to the size of each community was frozen at 1932 levels. The rapid increase in size of the Muslim population, and especially of the under-represented Shi’a, is one of the basic reasons for recent conflicts. The Shi’a are 36% of the population and Sunni 23%. There are 18 recognized religious communities: four Muslim, Druze, Jewish and 12 Christian. All figures used here are estimates. (The last religious census was in 1932, when Christians were 53.7% of the population.)
3 Lebanon is still the only land in the Middle East where anyone is legally free to change their religious affiliation. Believers from most other Arab countries can more freely come to Lebanon for training. Pray that religious freedom might be maintained.
1 Lebanon’s tragic history over the past 50 years with communal wars, foreign interventions and hostage-taking made world headlines. Its once-wealthy economy was destroyed, its middle class decimated and its delicate social balances disturbed. The war is over but not its effects. Pray specifically for:
a) The government and its leaders. According to common practice, the President must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker a Shi’a Muslim. They need to set an example in harmonious working together for the good of all Lebanese.
c) The healing of the deep hurts in communities, families and individuals. Over 80% of the population was displaced at one time or another during the war. All have lost loved ones, many lost homes and jobs.
2 The Christian community has been deeply traumatized. They have lost their political and economic dominance and a major part of their population through emigration. Their population percentage has dropped from 62% in 1970 to under 32% in 2000. Pray that many may come to personal faith and deep commitment to the Lord Jesus, and thus be a blessing to the nation and the world. The Charismatic movement has had a widespread impact across the denominational spectrum. Pray also for the reversal of the trend of Lebanese young people to emigrate.
3 The Orthodox and Catholic Churches are many and varied. All have a long history of struggle for survival. In the midst of traditionalism and deadness are also significant renewal movements notably in the Maronite and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Church attendance, especially among the Maronites, is at an all-time high. Pray for new life to infuse these ancient communities.
4 The Protestant Church has struggled to grow due to centuries of suspicion of Western Christianity and because the many small denominations communicate a message of fragmentation and divisiveness. More Armenians than Arabs have responded. Conversions have barely replaced losses through emigration. Pray for the ministry of the Baptists, CMA, and the Church of God churches that are growing, but relatively few of the new converts are from a non-Christian background. Pray for the further development of fellowship and cooperation between Evangelicals long neglected, but stimulated by a working together in providing aid to refugees resulting from fighting between Hezbollah Shi’a Muslims and the Israelis in the late 1990s. The Council of Evangelical Churches in Syria and Lebanon was the catalyst for this. Cooperation between Evangelicals is being promoted through the Lebanon Evangelical Society (LES) and the Evangelical Ministers’ Fellowship.
5 Trained leadership in evangelical churches is at a premium. The decline in the number of residential missionaries, emigration of national leaders, and lack of workers have left many congregations in the region without effective pastoral care. Praise God, this is being reversed. Lebanon has a number of residential evangelical Bible schools the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (60 students), Mediterranean Bible College (Church of God), Christian Alliance Institute of Theology (CMA 12 students) and the Near East School of Theology (20 students). Pray for staff, supply of needs and students in these times of renewed possibilities. Pray that increasing cooperation between these colleges would result in significant advances for the Kingdom.
6 Lebanon has long been one of the key centres for Christian ministries to the whole Middle East. Much of this outreach was interrupted but it is regaining momentum once more. Pray that Lebanese believers may regain a vision for others and for other lands the war has introverted many and made them sorry for themselves and for what they lost. Pray specifically for these ministries:
a) The Bible Society, which has a vital role in distributing many Bibles within Lebanon and to surrounding nations. The ministry has expanded to meet the increased demand for Bibles and NTs in all communities. Book fairs have been highly successful for Bible distribution. Many in Orthodox and Catholic churches are reading and studying the Scriptures.
b) Christian schools and orphanages. These are much appreciated, having had a long and fruitful ministry, and have gained in credibility since the war. Many children from all communities hear the gospel and some come to Christ (LES, Lebanon Baptist Society and others). Many Lebanese political and societal leaders have been to an evangelical school.
c) Young people, who are often struggling in the post-war apathy, sense of loss, lack of job opportunities and gloom about the future. Drug abuse is a serious problem. Pray for relevant and effective ministry to them (YFC Lebanon, Grain du Blé, YWAM, local churches). More needs to be done for student ministry (CCCI and IFES).
d) Christian literature production which has been severely disrupted. Much of this ministry has been transferred to Cyprus, Europe and elsewhere. Pray for the Evangelical Carmel Mission, OM, MECOLit, Clarion Publishing House, the Baptist Publishing Center and others, who are publishing and distributing literature for Lebanon and the Arab world.
e) Radio. International broadcasters include FEBA-Seychelles (10 hours/week), TWR-Cyprus (9) and IBRA (36) by satellite and from Moscow. There are also many local FM stations that broadcast Christian programmes.
f) Christian TV. Television has become the primary source of information and entertainment. There are 10 local TV stations in Lebanon some Christian. SAT-7 has had a deep impact by satellite and is also re-broadcast by the Catholic TV station Télélumière. SAT-7’s main studios for the Middle East are now in Beirut.
7 Expatriate Christian workers are returning to Lebanon after years of minimal presence because of widespread violence and hostage-taking. Pray for more to be called and enabled to identify with and serve the Church and all Lebanese. There are many areas where the love of Christ may be demonstrated reconstruction, rehabilitation, young people, drug rehabilitation as well as discipleship and church development ministries (CMA, MECO, AoG, IMB-SBC, WVI, WEC, YWAM, OM-Love Lebanon and others).
a) The Shi’a Muslims who have been the more radical of the religious groupings. They live mainly in the south on the Israel border, in the Bekaa Valley and in West Beirut. The Hezbollah faction in South Lebanon is supported by Iran, violently opposed to anything Western and any peace settlement with Israel. Pray that they may discover the emptiness of a religion without Christ as a number have done!
c) The Druze and their well-organized, close-knit community. Their heartland is the mountain area east of Beirut. They have a secretive religion which came out of Islam. Its tenets are only taught to the 15% who are fully committed. In the last few years a multi-agency partnership has seen several hundred come to Christ may authentic Druze churches result.
d) The Palestinians a tragic, stateless people. No full peace or harmony is possible without a lasting solution to their situation especially for those in refugee camps. There are Christians among them, some evangelical, but the majority are Muslim and unreached.
e) The poor and disadvantaged. The majority of the very poor are Muslim (Lebanese and Palestinian). The blind, deaf and disabled are often neglected by society in general. Pray for believers and various agencies seeking to minister to them.
Pray that Lebanese believers may regain a vision to reach out to these five groups.
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