Religion in Lebanon
Lebanon has several different main religions. The country has the most religiously diverse society in the Middle East, comprising 17 recognized religious sects. The main two religions are Christianity (the Maronite Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East) and Islam (Shia and Sunni). There is also the Druze minority religion.
No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (i.e. religious) balance.
The most recent study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that approximately Lebanon's population is estimated to be 54% Muslim (27% Shia; 27% Sunni), 5.6% Druze, who do not consider themselves to be Muslims, 40.4% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, and 6.4% other Christian denominations like Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant).
The CIA World Factbook shows that of those residing in Lebanon, 59.7% are Muslims (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Sufi and Alawites) and 39.0% are Christians (mostly Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Melkite Greek Catholics, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholics) and 1.3% "Other".
Lebanon has a population of Mhallamis also known as Mardinli), most of whom migrated from northeast Syria and southeast Turkey are estimated to be between 75,000 and 100,000 and considered to be part of the Sunni population. These have in recent years been granted Lebanese citizenship and, coupled with several civil wars between Islamic extremists and the Lebanese military that have caused many Christians to flee the country, have re-tipped the demographic balance in favour of the Muslims and the Sunnis in particular. In addition, many thousands of Arab Bedouins in the Bekaa and in the Wadi Khaled region, who are entirely Sunnis, were granted Lebanese citizenship. Lebanon also has a Jewish population, estimated at less than 100.
Even though Lebanon is a secular country, family matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance are still handled by the religious authorities representing a person's faith. Calls for civil marriage are unanimously rejected by the religious authorities but civil marriages held in another country are recognized by Lebanese civil authorities.
Legally registered Muslims form around 54% of the population (Shia, Sunni, Alawite). Legally registered Christians form up to 41% (Maronite, Greek Orthodox-Christian, Greek Catholic, Armenian, Evangelical, other). Druze form around 4%. Lebanon thus differs from other Middle Eastern countries and more resembles Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Balkan Europe, in having a diverse mix of Muslims and Christians that each make up approximately half the population.
Even though non-religion is not recognized by the state, the Minister of the Interior Ziad Baroud made it possible in 2009 to have the religious sect removed from the Lebanese identity card. This does not, however, deny the religious authorities complete control over civil family issues inside the country.
Geographical distribution of sects in Lebanon
Druze are concentrated south of Mount Lebanon and in the Hasbaya District.
- Alfred B. Prados (June 8, 2006). "Lebanon". The Library of Congress. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- Country Studies. "Lebanon Population". Retrieved November 25, 2006.
- "Statistics Lebanon Beirut-based research firm".
- CIA, the World Factbook (2006). "Lebanon". Retrieved March 8, 2009.
- Lokman I. Meho (January 2002). "The Kurds in Lebanon: a social and historical overview". International Journal of Kurdish Studies.
- Piero Gheddo (2009-02-13) LEBANON Religious affiliation to disappear from Lebanese documents – Asia News. Asianews.it. Retrieved on 2013-09-26.
- Religious Affiliation Can Be Removed From Lebanese ID Cards. Barcode Nation (2009-02-25). Retrieved on 2013-09-26.