Lebanese American University

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Lebanese diaspora 101

Though Lebanese have emigrated for many years, the civil war of the 1970s and 1980s, and the internal and regional tension afterwards have convinced many of the country’s population to leave for the Americas, Africa and Europe. As Lebanon descended into armed conflict, with lines drawn by religion, many Lebanese Christians decided to seek new lives elsewhere, though Muslim Lebanese can certainly be found throughout the world.

While Lebanon itself is home to about 4 million people, Lebanese worldwide count for as many as 14 million. Countries like the U.S., with its long history as a destination for emigrants, have notable Lebanese and Lebanese-American populations, with members of the diaspora reaching repute in fields like acting, singing, politics and science. The diaspora worldwide is known for its business acumen, with many emigrants in East and West Africa known for their involvement in commercial ventures despite their relatively small size in some African countries. Lebanese also did well in the Gulf, riding the waves as they swelled in the United Arab Emirates and its most powerful city-states, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As the economic condition soured there, many were forced to look for opportunities elsewhere or return to Lebanon, which is finally seeing sustained economic growth as the years pass since the end of the civil war.

Many members of the worldwide Lebanese community, like any other group of emigrants, send money back to their mother country; in 2009, they sent $7 billion back, an incredible amount of money for a relatively small land. The community’s success in the America, Africa, Europe and the Gulf was essential for this, and the money from abroad has proven a remarkable buoy for Lebanon’s economy during the recession of 2008 and 2009.

Their generosity is also well-known, with members of the global community offering funding for an aid shipment to the stricken country of Haiti after its January earthquake (though it is also worth noting that there are Lebanese living in Haiti, who were also recipients of this attention).

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