Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape political and economic crises and signs that radical Islam is on the rise in the country. In a poll to be published next month which was exclusively leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating. Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies. Their exodus could have a devastating effect on the country, robbing it of an influential minority which has acted as an important counter-balance to the forces of Islamic extremism. About 60,000 Christians have already left since last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shia factions is looming. Lebanon’s Christian community is concerned that its influence is waning as a result of a continuing internal power struggle, which for the past five months has pitted a Sunni-led government against a predominantly Shia opposition, spearheaded by the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The collapse in influence has been exacerbated by a roughly equal spilt in support among Christians for rival Shia and Sunni leaders. The battle between Muslim factions has paralysed the Lebanese administration and crippled the economy.