Religion in Lebanon
Lebanon has several different main religions. The country has the most religiously diverse society of all states within the Middle East, comprising 18 recognized religious sects. It is also estimated that a large proportion of its population are refugees (1.5 million out of a bit over 6 million in 2017) which affects statistics. The main two religions are Islam with 57.7% of the citizenry (Sunni and Shia) and Christianity with 36.2% of the citizenry (the Maronite Church, the Orthodox Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church). The Druze are about 5.2% of the citizens. The refugees mostly Syrian or Palestinian are predominately Sunni but also include Christians and Shia.
Lebanon thus differs from other Middle East countries where Muslims are the overwhelming majority and more resembles Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, both in Southeastern Europe, in having a diverse mix of Muslims and Christians that each make up approximately half the country's population. The official constitution of Lebanon states that the president of the country must imperatively be a Maronite Christian.
Population by religious affiliation
No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (i.e. religious) balance. As a result, the religious affiliation of the Lebanese population is very difficult to establish with certainty and various sources are used to get the possible estimate of the population by religious affiliation.
The following are different sources that do not pretend to be fully representative of the religious affiliation of the people of Lebanon.
A 2012 study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that Lebanon's population is estimated to be 54% Muslim (27% Shia; 27% Sunni), 5.6% Druze, 40.4% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite, 6.4% other Christian denominations like Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt).
The CIA World Factbook estimates (July 2017) the following: Muslim 57.7% (28.4% Shia, 28.7% Sunni), Christian 36.2% (Maronite Catholics are the largest Christian group), Druze 5.2%, and very small numbers of Zoroastrians, Jews, Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, and Mormons.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems provides source for the registered voters in Lebanon for 2011 (it has to be noted that voter registration does not include people under 18 and unregistered voters) that puts the numbers as following: Sunni Islam 23.6%, Shia Islam 23.4%, Maronite Catholic 26.5%, Greek Orthodox 8.34%, Druze 5.74%, Melkite Catholic 4.76%, Armenian Apostolic 2.64%, other Christian Minorities 1.28%, Alawite Shia Islam 0.88%, Armenian Catholic 0.62%, Evangelical Protestant 0.53%, and other 0.18% of the population.
Current political and religious issues
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Under the terms of an agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, the president of the country must be a Maronite, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni, and the Speaker of Parliament must be a Shia.
Although 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 conducted in another country are recognized by Lebanese civil authorities.
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
Lebanese Druze are concentrated south of Mount Lebanon, in the Hasbaya District and Chouf District. Under the Lebanese political division (Parliament of Lebanon Seat Allocation) the Druze community is designated as one of the five Lebanese Muslim communities (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawi, and Ismaili), despite the Druze and Muslims having very different beliefs.
Lebanese Christians are divided into many sects, several types of Catholics for instance the Maronites and Greek Catholics (Melkites), Greek Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox (among which are Syriacs, Armenians and Copts), Church of the East (Assyrians) and Protestants.
Lebanese Maronites are concentrated in the north Beirut (northern parts of Greater Beirut), northern part of Mount Lebanon Governorate, southern part of North Governorate, parts of Beqaa Governorate and South Governorate.
Greek Catholics are found everywhere but in particular in districts on the eastern slopes of the Lebanese mountain range and in Zahle where they are a majority.
Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Nejme Square
- Christianity in Lebanon
- Islam in Lebanon
- History of the Jews in Lebanon
- Secularism in Lebanon
- Irreligion in Lebanon
- Freedom of religion in Lebanon
- Freemasonry in Lebanon
- Demographics of Lebanon
- "International Religious Freedom Report for 2017". www.state.gov. United States Department of State. Retrieved 30 March 2019. Cites Statistics Lebanon for most Lebanon statistics
- Alfred B. Prados (June 8, 2006). "CRS Issue Brief for Congress: Lebanon". The Library of Congress. Retrieved June 11, 2012.
- "Middle East :: Lebanon — The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency, United States. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
- "Lebanon: A Country Study". US Library of Congress. Section: Population.
- Country Studies. "Lebanon Population". Retrieved November 25, 2006.
- "International Religious Freedom Report for 2012: Lebanon". United States Department of State. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- "Elections in Lebanon" (PDF). International Foundation for Electoral Systems. 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
- "Religious affiliation to disappear from Lebanese documents". www.asianews.it. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
- Religious Affiliation Can Be Removed From Lebanese ID Cards. Barcode Nation (2009-02-25). Retrieved on 2013-09-26.
- agency, united states. central intelligence. "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Retrieved 10 July 2016.
- "International Religious Freedom Report 2010: Lebanon". United States Department of State. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
- Lebanon Maronites Overview World Directory of Minorities. June 2008. Retrieved 28 December 2013.