In This City is a challenge to journey with us in prayer for 12 key cities in 2019. We ask you to commit to praying for fruit that will ripen and bear the seeds for mature, vibrant and multiplying churches across the Arab world. Find out more in this article from the leader of Pioneers’ Middle East Region.
Once known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon, a small country on the Mediterranean coast, west of Syria. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. The first historical mention of Beirut can be found in the Amarna letters of Egypt, which date back to the mid 1300s BC.
For fifteen years, Beirut, along with the rest of Lebanon, was devastated by civil war. The city has almost recovered from this and from the war with Israel in 2006. Now, however, it struggles economically as a result of the huge influx of refugees from neighbouring Syria. Beirut is unique in that it is a city divided. It has Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims and Christians, all living in different areas and not mixing. There are only a handful of cities like this worldwide.
Religion: Muslim (Shia, Sunni, Alawi, Druze) and Christian (including Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Protestant Evangelical, Armenian Orthodox)
Ethnic groups: Arab (95%), Armenian (4%), other (1%)
Geographical size: 26 sq miles / 67 sq kilometres
Location: On a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast
Key historical events: Destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon, 140 BC. Conquered by Romans, 64 BC. Ravaged by earthquake, AD 551. Conquered by Muslims, AD 635. Syrian Protestant College, now American University of Beirut, established 1866. Became capital of (now independent) Lebanon, 1943. Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990. Prime Minister Rafic Hariri assassinated, 2005, followed by the Cedar Revolution, which led to withdrawal of 14,000 Syrian soldiers.
Many people are thinking or dreaming of leaving Lebanon because of the bad economic and political situation. With one refugee for every four nationals, Lebanon has the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. The possibility of war in the near future is on everyone’s mind.
Most are not in churches because most churches are not welcoming to believers from a Muslim background (BMBs). Beirut is very segregated, and Muslims and Christians do not really mix. Seekers and believers need established groups and churches that they can join.
Workers are taking time with individuals to disciple BMBs until the local church is ready to accept and trust them. They think it is better for the future of the country to have one strong, healthy church than to have a church divided between those from Christian background and those from Muslim background.
- God would bring peace and stability to Beirut and the country of Lebanon. Pray against war and conflict.
- Church leaders would have a vision to preach the gospel to all Lebanese people.
- The church would be convinced that BMBs are also sons and daughters of God’s Kingdom.
- BMBs would be encouraged to engage in church life and take opportunities for leadership and service within the local church.
- Workers would have wisdom to work with church leaders on one hand and disciple and encourage BMBs on the other, to achieve their vision of a strong and healthy Lebanese church.
- A new partnership with some other media organisations would help the church to find more true seekers.
Some extra prayer requests
Those who are serving among refugees need our prayers too…
- Pray that workers would make the most of every opportunity to share Jesus’ love with refugees.
- Pray against emotional fatigue. Listening to people’s often harrowing stories and trying to bring comfort to those who have been traumatised is draining.
- Pray for those who want to return to Syria but fear the consequences. Will they be seen as deserters?
- Many refugees have come to faith in Christ. Pray that more would do so.
One last thing…
One of our team members writes…
‘I recently visited Beirut for the first time and was struck by a few things… Firstly, how hilly it is. I mean really hilly. I couldn’t believe the manoeuvres our driver made, straining around sharp, steep corners, scraping the undercarriage of his bus as we made our way up and up the mountain. The view from the top was breathtaking!
‘Secondly, how busy and full of life the city is, both with people and traffic. Cars, vans and coaches ram the streets at peak times, lengthening even short commutes. There are buildings, new and old, squeezed in everywhere – many stunningly beautiful. We saw apartment buildings streaming with plants and flowers – even a tree or two. At night, the city centre is brightly lit by towering, modern skyscrapers and flashing billboard advertisements.
‘Thirdly, I couldn’t miss how divided the city is. There are checkpoints as you move from a Shia Muslim area to a Christian area to a Sunni Muslim area. The feel of the city changes too. Some parts are clearly poorer than others.
‘I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what it feels like to be in this beautiful part of the world, and maybe the desire to go yourself. I didn’t see enough and I definitely want to return. I didn’t even mention the amazing food!’
Thank you for praying with us
Next month we pray for Amman, capital city of Jordan.