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The Lebanese Republic, also known as Lebanon, has a long western coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Sharing a large border with Syria to the north and west, and with Israel to the south, Lebanon is separated from Cyprus by the Mediterranean to the east.

Due to alterations between highlands and lowlands, the landscape, vegetation, and climate of Lebanon can differ sharply within short distances. There are sixteen rivers in Lebanon, none of which are navigable. At one time, Lebanon was covered by cedar forests, but today less than 14% of its land is taken up by forests, and they are threatened by forest fires during the dry season. The government has a plan to increase its forest coverage by 20%. Largely funded by the United States, the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative began in 2011.

The smallest country in Asia, Lebanon's history goes back to 3000 BC, when the Phoenicians controlled the region. Since then, Lebanon has been occupied by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, and the French, each of which left evidences of having been there, including religious buildings, large castles, citadels, and other constructions.

Lebanon was one of the first regions to embrace Christianity, shortly after the 1st century, and it became the official religion in 381. Lebanon became part of the Byzantine Empire when the Roman Empire was divided in 395, after which Constantinople (Istanbul) became its capital. In the 5th century, Christianity became deeply rooted. During this era, a group of Christians separated from the Orthodox Church, beginning a new sect that became known as the Maronites, now the largest Christian community in Lebanon. In 636, Lebanon came under the control of the Arabs, who made Islam the state religion. Christianity continued to be heavily represented in Lebanon, despite suppression by the Arabs.

Today, Lebanon is the most diverse country in the Middle East, as far as religion is concerned. More than half of its population is Muslim, evenly divided between Shia and Sunni, while Christians make up more than 40% of Lebanese people, with very small communities of Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Mormons. There has been a decline in the ratio of Christians to Muslims over the past fifty years. In 1956, Christianity was the majority religion.

The Ottomans supported Germany in World War I and, after their defeat, the Ottoman Empire was dismantled. Lebanon and Syria came under French control. In 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic, granting a degree of autonomy.

Early during World War II, the Vichy French permitted Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, so Britain sent troops to occupy Lebanon and Syria. In 1941, French General Charles de Gaulle visited Lebanon, and recognized the independence of the country. Elections were held. Then, in 1943, the Vichy French briefly imprisoned the newly elected Lebanese government. Released in the face of international pressure, the Allies occupied Lebanon until the end of the war. In 1945, Lebanon became a founding member of the United Nations.

Due to Israeli-Palestinian wars and conflicts, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians took refuge in Lebanon, increasing Palestinian influence over the government, simultaneously escalating incidences of political violence within Lebanon. In 1969, Lebanon allowed the Palestine Liberation Organization to use Palestinian territory to wage attacks against Israel, and the PLO became a dominant figure in Lebanese politics. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Lebanon was a base of operations against Israel

The Lebanese populace became more and more divided over the presence of the PLO in Lebanon. In 1975, the Lebanese Civil War began, separating Christians from Muslims. Although Syria initially supported the PLO, Syrian troops prevented Lebanese Christians from being overrun by the PLO, although the PLO continued to wage cross-border attacks against Israel from Lebanon.

Today, violence between the various factions in Lebanon continues, although the civil war has ended. The Lebanese government is a parliamentary democracy, in which high-ranking offices are reserved for specific religious groups. The President must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a system designed to reduce religious conflicts. Its legal system is based on the French system, with matters of personal status referred to the applicable religious body.

Topics related to Lebanese schools, religious institutions, governmental bodies, organizations, businesses, or individuals are appropriate for this category, as are sites whose chief topic is related to Lebanon.

 

 

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