OVERVIEW: There is a unique openness to the gospel among Arab Muslims in Lebanon who have suffered greatly because of the war in Syria. Because Lebanon has a significant Christian population and is not a Muslim country, it has become a haven for persecuted believers throughout the region. More than 1 million Syrian refugees have entered the country over the past seven years, increasing Lebanon’s population by nearly one-fourth, and they have not always been welcomed with open arms. Despite the hardships, many of the evangelical churches of Lebanon have not only welcomed but also cared for the emergency needs of Syrian refugees, who have limited resources and few rights in the country. As a result, over the past few years, many Syrian Muslims have heard the gospel message multiple times. Lebanese churches distribute Bibles and Christian literature alongside food and other necessities. Many Muslim refugees have been brave enough to attend home Bible studies and church services to learn about Christ. Significant numbers have placed their faith in Christ, been baptized and become active in local churches as they try to witness to other Syrian Muslims.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: 59% of Lebanese are Muslims, evenly divided between Sunni and Shiite. 33 percent are Christians, including 1 percent evangelicals. There is a small Druze minority, a secretive and monotheistic faith that sometimes persecutes Christians.
PERSECUTOR: Various extremist groups, including Hezbollah in the south and other Shiite regions, actively persecute Christians. Islamic extremist cells affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaida and other groups are active near the Syrian border. In rural communities, Christians are persecuted by their tribes and families.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN LEBANON: Lebanon has a reputation of being a free country and is highly westernized in urban areas. Those who are Christian by birth are allowed to worship openly. Christians face ongoing harassment from the Muslim majority, such as denial of land acquisition and increased tax rates. More severe forms of persecution occur when believers share their faith or when Muslims convert to Christianity. Christian converts from Islam are persecuted mostly by family and the community.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: A variety of Bibles are available through Bible societies, local churches and bookstores.
VOM WORK: Because Lebanon has become a refuge for Christian converts from other countries fleeing persecution, and because of persecution within Lebanon itself, VOM supports many persecuted believers in Lebanon in a variety of ways. VOM also helps meet the basic needs of Christian refugees. We partner with local churches to provide them with Bibles as well as medical and education assistance. We also support a broad network of evangelists and church planters in frontier areas and support training for Christian leaders.