Lebanon has historically been an important commercial hub for the Middle East. Despite its small size, it has also often been at the center of conflicts in the Middle East because of its borders with Syria and Israel and its uniquely complex religious makeup. Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East; the main groups are Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Christians, and Druzes.
Though Lebanon is a secular country, representation in its government is confessional; each main religious group appoints representatives according to its percentage of the population.
Lebanon also has a large number of Palestinian refugees. They make up as much as a tenth of the country's population; nearly all live in shanty towns and they enjoy few legal rights. Their presence, status, and the actions of some extremist groups among them have been major sources of discord.