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Bishop Details Secrecy of Christian Conversions in Lebanon

James Gordon

Catholic News Agency - published on 02/12/14 - updated on 06/08/17

“It’s very, very hard to know how many are baptized, because everything will be a secret.”

According to a local bishop, numerous conversions of Muslims to Christianity occur every year in Lebanon but the true number is unknown because of the risk of social stigma and persecution.

“Most of them try to go outside from Lebanon, to Europe or America or Canada or Australia to live there, because it’s not possible to be converted and to stay here,” a Catholic bishop in Lebanon told CNA in a Feb. 10 phone interview.

“It’s very, very hard to know how many are baptized, because everything will be a secret.”

Given the delicacy of conversion in Lebanon – a Middle Eastern country with a slight Muslim majority – the bishop spoke on condition of anonymity. While the region is lauded for its comparative plurality as Muslims generally coexist well with the Christian population, some hostility can be present toward those who convert from Islam.  

“I have heard many stories about the conversion of Muslims,” he said, in both the Maronite and Melkite communities – the two largest Catholic groups in the country.

The bishop cited one Melkite priest who baptized 75 Muslims last year. “Most of them left Muslim areas to stay in the Christian area,” he said, and many are trying to emigrate.

One young woman from Baalbek was converted, he recounted, and her family “accused the priest of having used sorcery to make her convert to Christianity.”

“The priest was then abducted and kidnapped by the family. A deal was done after that between the diocese and the tribe of the family, that the family would bring the daughter back home, without torturing her.”

Her family has since converted as well, he explained, “but in a secret way.”

If converts from Islam are not able to leave Lebanon, he said, they often move to areas of Lebanon with larger concentrations of Christians: “other people left the Beqaa valley to stay in Beirut, or in Jounieh, in the Christian country.”

Those converting to Christianity in Lebanon are by and large Lebanese themselves, the bishop explained, saying, “I know only one Syrian.”

This Syrian convert is from Aleppo, and was in Beirut studying sharia to become a sheikh.

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Tags:
Christians in the Middle EastFaithLebanonReligious Freedom

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