U.S.-based missions agencies and other religious groups are angling for ways to step up their involvement with Lebanon now that the U.S. government has lifted a 10-year-old travel ban.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the end of the ban after discussions with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on July 29. Hariri pledged that Lebanon will ratify the international treaty on hostage taking.

The United States imposed the ban in 1987 as murders, abductions, bombings, and hijackings took their toll on Americans in Lebanon.

John Harvey, Christian and Missionary Alliance Middle East regional director, says Lebanon is important to missionary activity because it is one of the few areas where there are no laws preventing evangelization, and Christians can be trained for the ministry.

Jean Bouchebl, program director for World Vision in Lebanon, told CT that many Christian missionaries fled the country when the travel ban began. Bouchebl says "the lifting of the ban will empower the mission of the church in Lebanon."

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