For a month in 2006, Lebanon was torn apart by war, as Israel fought with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Some 1,300 Lebanese were killed and around a million civilians were displaced. Key civilian infrastructure – including the country’s only airport – was badly damaged.
With tensions in the region again skyrocketing, many Lebanese fear that war may once more be on the horizon.
On Sunday, outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati travelled to Qatar, to speak with the country’s Emir about ways to keep Lebanon out of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Since the outbreak of hostilities on 7 October, Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging rocket fire. The staggering death toll is 8,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis killed to date.
Hezbollah has also launched multiple incursions into Israeli territory. The group says that some 46 of its fighters have died in clashes so far, while Israel says that at least 7 of its soldiers have been killed.
Meanwhile, the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, said over the weekend that its bases have come under rocket attack, wounding one peacekeeper.
On Monday morning, moreover, “Reporters Without Borders”, a press freedom group, said that a Reuters journalist killed earlier this month in southern Lebanon had been “explicitly targeted” by missiles from the direction of the Israeli border.
Many Lebanese fear that any further increase in tensions would spell disaster for their country’s economy, which is already mired in crisis.
Al Jazeera has reported that, since the outbreak of hostilities on 7 October, the hospitality industry has seen an 80% decrease in customer numbers.
Meanwhile, flights have been slashed, and Western governments are encouraging their citizens to leave the country.
In the event of a war, food security would be another major concern for the country, which is heavily dependent on foreign food imports.
Lebanon: A beacon of fraternity
The Holy See has repeatedly emphasised the importance of Lebanon, which is the country in the Middle East with the largest percentage of Christians and is often regarded as a model of harmonious co-existence between different faiths.
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited the country, and, although Pope Francis was prevented by health problems from making a planned trip in 2021, he has received the Lebanese President in Rome, and organised a high-profile ecumenical prayer meeting for the country.
In 1989 Pope John Paul II famously declared that Lebanon is “more than a country: It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for the East as well as for the West.” Pope Francis has echoed this sentiment, expressing his hope that the crisis will not lead Lebanon to “lose its identity, nor the experience of fraternal coexistence that has made it a message for the whole world.”