Christianity in Lebanon dates back to biblical times when Jesus Christ is recorded as having visited the region. Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians of all the nations in the Middle East. Estimates suggest that more than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian. It has a uniquely sectarian parliamentary democracy that has utilized a confessional system in which representation is allotted on a proportional basis to certain religious communities; the President of the Republic is to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.
Since the end of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, Lebanon has emerged as a beacon of pluralism in the Middle East, a nation where Christians, Muslims, and other peoples generally live in peace. ISIS and other extremist groups seek to undermine this peace, turning the forces of extremism against the Lebanese people, particularly the Christians. Lebanon, a country with a population of 4.5 million people, hosts more Syrian refugees than the whole of Europe; around 1 in 4 persons in Lebanon is a refugee.
Lebanon has shown remarkable resilience and generosity, but alone they are unable to deal with the refugee influx. In recent years its economy has suffered high unemployment and a national debt that is 140% of their GDP. In the past year economic growth registered at 0%. The Lebanese economy cannot provide livelihoods for all Syrian refugees. Furthermore, Christians, Sunni Muslims, and Shi’a Muslims each comprise roughly one-third of the Lebanese population. The Syrian refugees are mostly Sunni Muslims. If the refugee communities remain in Lebanon permanently, it could upset the delicate sectarian balance, destabilizing Lebanon.
The influence of foreign powers has fomented the political gridlock in Lebanon, which has affected all religious communities including the Maronites. Lebanon has not had a President for over two years and Hezbollah has consistently stated that they will continue to boycott elections until a candidate who supports Hezbollah is elected.