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History of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut

The National Evangelical Church of Beirut is the headquarters and administrative center for a conglomerate of churches (in the towns of Abeih, Aramoun, Khalde, Kafarshima, Hadath, Dbayyeh, Jdeideh and Dhour Shweir) operating under the name of the National Evangelical Union of Lebanon (NEUL).  These churches function like a presbytery for Beirut and its suburbs.

The Beirut church is the oldest and largest of these nine congregations; indeed, it is the oldest indigenous Arabic-speaking Protestant congregation in the Middle East.  It was established in Beirut in 1848 as a result of the efforts of Congregational and Presbyterian missionaries from the United States.  In 1869, the first evangelical church edifice was built to house the Arabic and English-speaking congregations.  For the next hundred years it served as the center for all the activities and celebrations of both communities.  The Arabic-speaking congregation is typical of most other evangelical churches around the world.  It has active Sunday school, youth groups, women’s program, spiritual, social and cultural services and committees which minister to the needs of the congregation and the society surrounding it.

In 1975, with the beginning of the war in Lebanon, most of the active ministries of the NEUL came to a halt.  The Church of Beirut was still able to worship in the chapel of the Near East School of Theology in Ras Beirut.  However, most of the churches of the Union were destroyed or deserted.  The elementary and high school, which the Beirut Church was running in the nearby town of Dbayyeh, had to move to several different locations in and around Beirut during the war years (1975 – 1990).

In 1990, the churches of the Union began gradually to rebuild their infrastructures and rejuvenate their ministries and activities.  This process is still going on.  It is, however, slow, time consuming and expensive.  Thanks to the commitment of the members of the congregation, however, as well as the helping hands of sister churches and mission organisations -- especially the EMS -- the results have been fruitful and encouraging.  The love of Christ for all human beings, regardless of gender, race, colour or religion, shines through the dedicated lives of the Church members and friends.

At present, the National Evangelical Church of Beirut runs a number of social and educational projects in different parts of Lebanon: two elementary schools, one in Ras Beirut and another in Kafarshima, and a high school in Kafarshima as well.  The Church also runs the Schneller orphanage and school (academic and vocational) in the village of Khirbet Qanafar, in the Beqa’ Valley of Lebanon.  This orphanage was founded in Jerusalem in 1860 to house the victims of the civil war in Lebanon, but was moved to Lebanon after the establishment of the State of Israel.  It is run in partnership with EMS. Since the year 2002, the National Evangelical Church has fostered the re-establishment of the International Community Church, an international congregation that was disbanded during the Lebanese civil war. At the present the International Community Church worships at the Beirut Church. It is a Christian community that is made up of expats, migrant workers, refugees and English-speaking Lebanese.

The brief chronicle below includes some of the years that are crucial for Lebanon as a whole and for our Church in particular.

1820   Lebanon under Ottoman rule.  Mount Lebanon semi autonomous district.  Baabda capital.  Beirut   a small sea-port town on the historic Syrian coast.  5000 inhabitants.
1823 American Reformed missionaries buy a small house for their mission in Zkak Al-Blat, outside the city walls, by “Bab Yaqoub” (the gate of Jacob!).
1840-45    Civil war in Lebanon.  Displaced and refugees begin to migrate to Beirut.
1848        First Arabic-speaking Evangelical church founded in Beirut.
1860-64   Another civil war.  More displaced and refugees continue to migrate.  Beirut grows in stature.
1866       Syrian Protestant College (later American University of Beirut) founded by American Reformed missionaries.  Further boost for Beirut.
1869       Evangelical church building consecrated.
1870       St. Joseph University founded by French Catholics.  Further growth of Beirut.
1918       End of Ottoman rule over Lebanon and Syria.  French mandate begins.
1922       “Grand Liban” created.  Beirut declared capital.
1943       Lebanon gains independence.  Christians and Muslims form the “National Pact”,   no west – no east.
1975-90  Lebanon at war.  Palestinian – Lebanese conflict becomes a Lebanese – Lebanese and a Lebanese – Israeli and a Lebanese – Syrian conflict.
1982      Israeli incursion and occupation of South Lebanon.
1990      Taef Agreement ends war, but peace is not secure.  Lebanon – Israel conflict continues.  Hizbullah (mostly Shiite) intensifies resistance to occupation of Southern Lebanon.  Lebanon – Syria conflict continues.  Opposition to Syrian hegemony over Lebanese polities and land grows.  Mostly Christian.
1993    Plans are made to rebuild the Church, which had been destroyed completely during the civil war.
1998    Consecration of reconstructed Church.
2000    Israeli troops withdraw from South Lebanon.  Syrian hegemony continues – opposition also.
2002   The Interational Community Church (formerly called Anglo-American Community Church) that was disbanded during the civil war is restarted at the National Evangelical Church of Beirut.
2005   Assassination of former prime-minister Rafik Hariri and Protestant MP Basil Fuleihan. Cedar Revolution and exit of Syria from Lebanon. Rift between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian political parties emerges. Series of bombings and assassinations of anti-Syrian MPs.
2006   War between Israel and Hezbollah. Deepening political rift.

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Contact Details

The National Evangelical Church of Beirut

P.O. Box 11-5224

Riad Essoulh, Beirut

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel. +961 1 980 051/2

Fax +961 1 980 050