The entrance to the border village of Ain Ibil. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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Sat on the balcony of a hotel in Ain Ibl, one of just four Christian villages in the remote qada of Bint Jbeil, Pierre Hasrouny looks out over the mountainous landscape of south Lebanon.Residents in Bint Jbeil's four predominantly Christian villages – Ain Ibl, Rmaish, Dibil and Qouzah – say they have struggled to survive since the days of the French Mandate in the 1920s, somehow making it through the Civil War and the long years of Israeli occupation from 1982-2000 .Residents say that Christian political parties have repeatedly turned down requests to fund development projects in the villages.Further stoking resentment is the issue of inter-religious land sales, which, thanks to comments from high-profile religious and political figures, is presented as a potential threat to the very existence of Christians in Lebanon.The selling of land was so rampant that some Christian figures who are close to the resistance group, in Ain Ibl for example, asked Hezbollah to urge Shiites to refrain from buying property in the village. Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite Church, has specifically called on Christians to hold onto their lands and not sell them to people outside the community.The issue remains thorny and highly emotive, especially given that some villages, such as Ain Ibl, still hold an annual Mass to remember "the exiled".
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