Milestones TimelineLebanon's and LSESD's Histories Compared
See how LSESD’s history aligns with the history of Lebanon.
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Lebanon’s long and often turbulent history reaches back to the dawn of civilization. Its earliest settlers were called Phoenicians who came from the Arabian Peninsula around 3,500 BC. They established cities at Beirut, Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, and Baalbek, which are still major cities in the country today. Lebanon became part of the Roman Empire in 64 BC when Pompey conquered the territory & governed it as part of the province of Syria. The Christian sect that was later to become the Maronite church settled in the northern districts of the Lebanese Mountains to avoid conversion to Islam during the 7th century. The Arabs, inspired by the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, had converted most of the region to Islam. The geographical inaccessibility that made Lebanon attractive as a religious refuge also appealed to Muslims; the Shi’ites found a haven here during the 9th century and the Druze in the 11th century. Maronites, Druze, and Shi’ites, and Sunni Muslims all play a significant role in the cultural climate of Lebanon today. The Turks took control in the 16th century during a major expansion of the Ottoman Empire and governed through local leaders until the end of World War I in 1918. During the war there was a mass movement of Armenians into Lebanon escaping the Turkish massacres of Armenians. They have maintained a distinct Armenian identity while becoming active members of society. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the present day territory of Lebanon became a French mandate via the Sikes-Picot agreement between Britain and France.
With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI the French were granted by a League of Nations mandate to govern Lebanon until it gained its independence on November 22nd, 1943. The various ethnic and religious communities cohabited in relative peace with guidelines to divide political power between Christians, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims.
With this system Lebanon developed a thriving economy based on providing business services: banking and finance, and transport and trade facilities for other countries. During this period Beirut was known as the “Paris of the Middle East,” while the country as a whole was referred to as the Switzerland of the Middle East.
When Britain withdrew from Palestine in 1948, the surrounding Arab states engaged in war to prevent the emergence of a Jewish nation. The conflict caused a multitude of Palestinian refugees to flood into neighboring countries, Lebanon included. In the end, the Israeli state was created nevertheless, while Jordan lays claim to the West Bank and Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
Establishment of BBS
Rev. Finley Graham and his wife Julia worked in collaboration with Rev. James Regland and Mr. Salim al Sharouk to found the Beirut Baptist School. BBS became the first missionary Baptist institution in Lebanon. Although the building construction was not yet completed, the school opened its doors for the first time in 1955.
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Establishment of DMAH
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Establishment of ABTS
In 1960, Dr. Finlay Graham founded the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in a rented apartment in Mousaitbeh, Beirut after having already taught theology classes in his home for the previous seven years. In the first year, there were approximately 21 students from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.
To find out more about ABTS’s history, click here.
Lebanese Civil War Begins
The Lebanese civil war began in 1975 when Phalangist gunmen ambushed a bus filled with Palestinian passengers in retaliation for a Palestinian attack on a church. It soon developed into an all-out sectarian war between Christian and Muslim factions, eventually pulling in international support especially from Syria and Israel.
Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
After a series of exchanges with the PLO operating from Lebanon’s southern border causing a number of civilian casualties, Israel invades Southern Lebanon in the hopes of neutralizing PLO factions. Israeli forces reached West Beirut, surrounding it and bombarding it until PLO forces relocated to Tripoli. Having allied itself with the Lebanese Phalangist (Maronite) factions, Israel installs Bachir Gemayel as the new president in the expectation that he will sign a peace treaty with Israel. However, shortly thereafter Gemayel is assassinated and disillusionment sets in leading to the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanese territory.
End of Lebanese Civil War
The civil war finally began to come to an end with the Taif Agreement negotiated in Saudia Arabia in 1989 to restore political harmony in Lebanon and Lebanese autonomy over Israeli-occupied Southern Lebanon. The agreement stipulated equal representation for Muslims and Christians thereby leveling the power struggle. It also established a timeframe for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The war officially ended, though, when the Syrian air force attacked the Presidential Palace at Baabda, forcing Maronite President Aoun to flee into exile.
Establishment of LSESD
When Google started in the US in 1998, another significant organisation was being established in Lebanon – the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development. LSESD was set up as a response to the aftermath of the Lebanese civil war. The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Dar Manhal Al Hayat and Beirut Baptist School were struggling following the 15-year conflict and were at risk of closing when their founders, the US Southern Baptist missionaries decided to leave Lebanon. They were determined to keep these ministries going and established LSESD to ensure their survival. In 1998, the Baptist Near East Mission officially handed over the ownership of these institutions to the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).
Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon
Due to the difficulties resulting from occupation, in May of 1999, Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel, announced his intention to withdraw Israeli forces from Southern Lebanon in the expectation of an accompanying agreement from the Lebanese government. Lebanon, pointing to Israel’s failure to leave the country in 1978 as required by Resolution 425 of the Security Council, refused to make any agreement with the Israeli government. The months that followed were comprised of numerous air raids and Israeli bombings of Lebanese infrastructure targets. Suffering losses of their own personnel, Israel withdrew the last of its troops from the “security zone” on May 25th, 2000 after 22 years of occupying Southern Lebanon.
Establishment of IMES
The Institute of Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), which is part of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS), was founded in 2003. IMES was, from the start, established in response to a deep felt need for a more integral approach to mission in Lebanon and the Middle East. Since the beginning, the Institute of Middle East Studies has embraced a strong calling to bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond. It emerged due to a strong desire to be more faithful to how God would have ABTS involved in the transformation of the country, the region, and even the world. It is a research and resource institute with a clear mandate to bring about positive transformation in thinking and practice between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East and beyond. To enable this, it has three primary strategic goals: education, peace building and advocacy.
Assassination of Hariri / Syrian Withdrawal
On February 14, 2005 the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafic Hariri was assassinated when 1,000 kilograms of TNT exploded his motorcade as it was passing by the Saint George Hotel downtown. His death marked a pivotal turning point in the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, sparking the Cedar Revolution, which brought a million protestors to the streets to demand the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
In response to the mass demonstrations and international pressure, the Syrian government withdrew the last of its troops on April 26, 2005 after 29 years of occupation, bringing with it the end of an oppressive era in Lebanese history. This withdrawal additionally allowed for current day President Michel Aoun to return to Lebanon after 15 years of exile in France, where he had long decried the presence of Syria in Lebanon to international leadership.
The July War
A war lasting 34 days proved to be a pivotal moment in the history of LSESD.
On 12 July 2006, tension on Lebanon’s southern border quickly escalated into something more serious. In days, Israeli bombs were falling across the country. Thousands of people were killed or injured and almost one third of the population displaced from their homes.
Read more in: 20 Years of LSESD: The July War
As a response to the July 2006 conflict, BCYM was established to help displaced children.
To find out more about BCYM’s history, click here.
Establishment of MERATH
MERATH, originally called “Lebanon Baptist Aid”, is the relief and development arm of LSESD. The ministry began in 2006 in response to the internal displacement of around one-third of the population of Lebanon during the 34-Day Israel-Hizballah war. At the time, we opened up our campuses to receive IDPs. It was a transformational time for us. For many of our new neighbors and our team members, this was their first real encounter with people of a different faith, whom normally they’d consider the enemy. A beautiful ministry came out of this.
After the war ended, the people of South Lebanon headed back home… and invited us to go back with them to continue our work together. We then transitioned from relief into development.
In 2016, the ministry became MERATH: Middle East Revive And Thrive. MERATH now works alongside 50 local churches and faith-based organizations to help them implement relief and development projects for vulnerable individuals and families in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Syrian Revolution Begins
In early 2011, Syria, like many other neighboring Arab countries, was gripped by the Arab Spring fever. In March 2011, the arrest and torture of 15 local youth in the southern city of Deraa by the Syrian intelligence for the crime of having inscribed an anti-Assad inscription on a wall set fire to the gunpowder. The ensuing protests quickly spread to major Syrian cities while the regime responded with a force that led to the death and wounding of hundreds. By the end of 2011, the UN had already counted 5,000 dead.
To find out more about the Syrian War, read here.
Establishment of SKILD
SKILD was founded in March 2011 as an offshoot of the special education program at BBS.
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In October 2019, after the government proposed a tax on all Whatsapp calls, many Lebanese took to the streets in a festive manner with dancing and chanting to denounce mounting economic pressures and demand political accountability for three decades of corruption and mismanagement of public resources. The mass demonstrations resulted in the resignation of Saad Hariri’s government, which was replaced by the government of Hassan Diab in January 2020.
Beirut Port Explosion
On August 4th, 2020 a massive explosion shook Beirut destroying one third of the city, killing about 190 people, injuring another 6,500, and making about 300,000 inhabitants homeless. The explosion was the result of the combustion a large quantity of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for about six years prior to the explosion.
Read more about the Beirut Blast in the following article: Massive Explosion Rocks Beirut.