According to the the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the rights of minority Lebanese Christians are being threatened as the country absorbs over 1.2 million Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict at home.
The swelling refugee population is dramatically altering the country’s demographics, and now “some are attempting to impose Muslims over Christians,” said Bassil.
His fear, he says, is that Islamists in Lebanon are enforcing the same strategy that jihadist group Islamic State (IS) carved in Iraq and Syria.
“You can see it in different means, such as in Lebanese politics where the diversity has been eliminated and it is not accepted to have the real representative of the Christians in a political position.”
“This is similar to what [ISIL] is doing in the region, by eliminating the non-uniform elements,” he said. “In Lebanon … elements of the minorities are being gradually eliminated by not allowing them to ascend to power. There is a refusal to allow the real representatives of the minorities to gain power, comparable to an ideology of political extremism.”
Bassil believes that this elimination from politics may lead to a physical exodus of Lebanon’s threatened Christian minority, as has already happened in Iraq and Syria, where the Christian presence has all but gone.
Lebanon is the only Arab state that is not officially Muslim and has the highest proportion of Christians of any country in the Middle East.
However, with the enormous influx of refugees, the demography has changed enormously in a country whose population was less than 6 million in 2011, before the conflict in Syria. “That’s the equivalent of … the UK taking in 20 million [refugees],” said Peter Anderson, the head of Concern Worldwide in Northern Ireland.
The Lebanese constitution attempts to distribute power equally along the sectarian divisions, as a means to preventing any one group from becoming dominant. The president must be Maronite Christian, the prime minister Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament Shia Muslim.
- Pray for Lebanon as it seeks to retain its freedom for minority groups amidst a growing fundamentalist Islam population.
- Pray for wisdom for the Government of Lebanon, and that they can protect the religious equality written in their constitution.
- Pray for the Lebanese Church, especially for their witness as they minister to the Syrian refugees. Pray that they will reflect the Love of God and be channels of the Holy Spirit to the millions of displaced and hopeless people.
- Pray for Lebanese Christians to live without fear, even in the face of growing Islamic influence.
- Pray that many across the refugee camps and Syrian population in Lebanon will have life changing encounters with Jesus and respond to His life, love and Hope.
Isaiah 41 vs 13: “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’