- Pathfinder

Reply To: In what ways did indigenous Christians shape Lebanon’s history? What did you find most interesting about these communities?

Miriam Cavanaugh

In the lecture I learned, that the indigenous Christian community of Mount Lebanon and specifically the Maronites were one of the only people who stood up to the Ottoman concept of Dhimmitude. The religious freedom, that was often preserved even through bloodshed and sacrifice from the Maronites is a precious good in the Middle East and it had vast consequences, that even unto recently Lebanon was considered the “Switzerland of the Middle East” or “Paris of the Middle East”, not only because of religious freedom of their citizens and their good connections to Europe (i.e. France). At this point I would like to remark on one other consequence of religious freedom in Lebanon and this is the issue of censorship. While in most Middle Eastern countries a strict censorships (i.e. books, poetry, film) is enforced, Lebanon has always remained relatively free which led to the fact that many books mostly in Arabic, that would be censored in other countries have been printed in Lebanon.The Maronites are thus truly a big part of the Lebanese legacy, the country of “merchants and monks”, alluding to it’s Phoenician merchant and Maronite background.
Finally the influx of protestant missionaries during the 19th century should be mentioned, under whose influence the Syrian Protestant College was founded which became later the American University of Beirut and 19 of its graduates were among the Arab delegates at the founding of the United Nations.