Religions in Lebanon: the Maronites

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The oldest and most numerous community in Lebanon. The Maronites laid the foundations for the extraordinary nature of this country, differentiating it forever from the rest of the Middle East.

The followers of San Maron

The origins of Christianity in Lebanon are, for obvious chronological reasons, the oldest in the country and see their first true progenitor in San Maron, a Syriac monk of the 4th century. Before that, the town had already come into contact with other important Christian figures, but most of the inhabitants of the hinterland remained essentially pagan until the arrival of the saint’s teachings. Initially present mainly in Syria, the Maronites were forced to move as a result of the persecutions reserved for them by the Byzantines.

Maronites
The current President of the Republic Michel Aoun

This will also favor a radical isolation of the community which, with the arrival of the Muslims, was literally forgotten by the Christian world, only being rediscovered with the arrival of the Crusaders. There will immediately be a great understanding between Maronites and the latter, which will be strengthened by the choice of the local patriarch to bind himself to the Holy See, recognizing himself as a “branch of Catholicism”. This will favor an ever greater support from Rome which over the years will always keep alive the link with the Land of the cedars.

From the Mamluks to today

Lebanon was conquered first by the Mamluks and then by the Ottomans, under whom they became an increasingly important political reality by virtue of the growth of the European world. The bond was so strong that in 1860, following a civil war with the Druze, the Emperor of France sent 700 men, giving a taste of what will happen after the infamous Treaty of Sevres. Following this event, the Ottoman Empire was forced to choose a strictly Christian governor for the region, certifying the now central role of the Maronites in the country.

Lebanon
Religious distribution in Lebanon

This verdict will then be confirmed by the French occupation, followed by the famous National Pact, in which the President of the Republic and the Chief of Defense Staff belonged to the Maronites. Until 1932, Christians were about 65% of the country, a percentage which has now been reduced to about 35%, of which only 20% is Maronite. It is very interesting, however, to observe how the number grows exponentially by observing the number of Lebanese eligible for a passport: in that case they are the largest community ever with 28%. They can freely pray in Catholic churches just as the latter can pray in Maronite churches.

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