Later, France gave Lebanon a parliamentary system and, for the first time in the Middle East, created a nation where Christians had a strong political presence: each government office was apportioned to a representative of the country's main sects, with the presidency reserved for the Maronite Christians.
The privileging of Christians in governmental positions was one of the main reasons for the civil war, when the population percentage shifted in favor of the Muslims. Although the various communities in Lebanon share a similar ethnic background, the fact that they are of different religions and they define their cultural and often geographical boundaries through religious affiliation has always been a source of discord.
Ninety-five percent of the population is Arab, 4 percent is Armenian, and other ethnic backgrounds comprise the remaining 1 percent.
The birth rate is 27.69 per thousand and the death rate is 6.55 per thousand.
On numerous occasions religious diversity has eclipsed the sense of belonging to a common state.
The Canaanites, the first known settlers in the country, spoke a Semitic language.
Today, all Lebanese speak Arabic; most of them, especially the upper and middle classes, speak French; recently, English has become increasingly important. The cedar in the center of the Lebanese flag is the symbol of six thousand years of history: the cedar was Lebanon's chief export in ancient times.
The location of the cedar tree in the middle of the flag touching the upper and lower red stripes is also a reminder of Lebanon's constant troubles because the red stripes represent the blood spilt by the Lebanese throughout their history.
In the medieval period, Christian minorities often helped the Crusaders.
This created a close relationship between Lebanese Christians, particularly the Maronites, and Europe, particularly France.