Religion in Lebanon
Lebanon has several different main religions. The country has the most religiously diverse society in the Middle East, comprising 18 recognized religious sects. The main two religions are Christianity (the Maronite Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Melkite Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church) 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, 1% Protestant and 5.4% other Christian denominations like Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt).
The Lebanese government is structured to have a Maronite Catholic President, a Sunni Muslim Prime minister and a Shia Muslim Speaker of Parliament.
The CIA World Factbook estimates the following: Muslim 54% (27% Shia, 27% Sunni), Christian 40.5% (includes 21% Maronite Catholic, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Greek Catholic, 1% Protestantism in Lebanon, 5.5% other Christian), Druze 5.6%, very small numbers of Jews, Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons.
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 Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, in Southeastern 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
Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Nejme Square
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- Country Studies. "Lebanon Population". Retrieved November 25, 2006.
- "Statistics Lebanon Beirut-based research firm".
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- 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.