Institute of Texan Cultures' Texans Series
In the 1800s, the Ottoman Turks ruled a large empire across Europe and Asia. It included the modern-day countries of Lebanon and Syria. Most Ottoman Turks practiced Islam, but they allowed their subjects to practice a variety of religions.
In the area now known as Lebanon and Syria, Maronite Christians and Druze lived under Ottoman rule. Druze practiced a religion that developed out of Islam. They were each given an area of land to control, but religious differences and economic tensions eventually led to fighting. In April of 1860, thousands of Lebanese and Syrian Maronite Christians were killed, villages were destroyed and hundreds of churches were burned.
This religious persecution caused many people living in this area to want to leave. In 1880, many Christians from Lebanon and Syria left their homes to find more religious freedom, and some of them came to Texas. Most early Lebanese settlers in Texas belonged to the Syrian Orthodox Church, Eastern Rite Catholic Church or Greek Catholic Church, and some were Protestants.