During a lull early this month in the fighting between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, mission officials counted heads and tried to assess the damage to date. Only a handful of the several hundred Protestant foreign missionaries serving in Lebanon remained. None had been hurt, and most mission property had escaped major damage. There were reports of casualties among national workers, however, including the death of a Seventh-day Adventist communications employee. Important church-related schools either delayed the start of their fall terms indefinitely or were limping along at a fraction of normal enrollment. For now, the future of Christian work in Lebanon remains clouded, say mission officials.
Many factors figure in Lebanon’s turmoil: political, economic, and class differences, the presence of several hundred thousand Palestinian refugees, involvement of outside powers, even subversion. But the roots of the nation’s troubles go back many centuries, deep into its religious past.
Christianity was present in the area as early as the first century. In the fifth century St. Maron founded what is known today as the Maronite Catholic Church, an Eastern-rite church in submission to Rome. It is the largest of Lebanon’s Christian bodies, claiming perhaps 60 per cent of the Christian community and 30 per cent of the country’s estimated 3.3 million population.Population estimates throughout this report are based on conditions earlier in the year, before hundreds of thousands of persons fled from the country to escape the fighting.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the next largest Christian group, with about 13 per cent of the total population. Protestants account for only 1 per cent.
The majority of Lebanese—descendents ...1
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