Lebanon’s identity as a Christian-majority country gradually declined over the twentieth century; now only about a third of the population are Christians. The long sectarian civil war of 1975-89 still casts a shadow but an informal 1943 agreement continues that the President be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim.
The country is a haven to 1.5 million refugees (more than 20% of the overall population), including thousands of Christians fleeing persecution in Iraq and Syria.
A severe economic crisis has afflicted the country for several years. In November 2022, Lebanon’s overall inflation rate was 142%, with food inflation at 171%. The World Bank has ranked this crisis amongst the worst globally since the mid-nineteenth century in terms of the effect on living standards.
The conflict in Ukraine in 2022 added to pre-existing factors, as Lebanon used to import much of its food and fuel from there. Many hospitals stopped all non-emergency care because of prolonged power outages and lack of fuel for their generators. Long queues formed to buy bread, and cooking oil became virtually unobtainable. The cost of fuel caused many to avoid eating food items which require lengthy cooking. People have died because they could no longer afford the medication they depended on. Children dropped out of school as parents did not even have money for their daily travel.
Christians have been particularly hard hit, for the neighbourhoods affected by the massive explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020 were predominantly Christian. Large numbers are leaving the country.
Pray that the Lord will sustain Lebanon’s Christians and others with essential supplies amid the ongoing economic crisis. Ask that His people will receive strength, hope and faith to endure, and that sectarian violence will not escalate further to the detriment of Christians.