First Published: 2012-09-12


Lebanese Christians: from majority to minority


Research shows Christians now represent nearly 35 percent of Lebanon's registered population compared to 51 percent in 1932.


Middle East Online

Lebanon's Christian community is indisputably the second-largest in the Middle East

BEIRUT - Lebanon, which Pope Benedict XVI will visit this week, is home to 14 Christian denominations among 18 officially recognised faith communities.

But figures on religious affiliation in Lebanon are only approximate, because a national census has not been conducted since 1932, when Lebanon was still under French mandate and 51 percent of the population was Christian.

And there is little prospect of conducting a new one because of the sensitive political issue of maintaining parity among confessional groups.

An unwritten, but rigorously followed tradition mandates that the president always be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite.

After the Copts of Egypt, Lebanon's Christian community is indisputably the second-largest in the Middle East.

Christians now represent nearly 35 percent of the country's registered population of some 4.6 million people, according to researcher Youssef Shahid Doueihi, of Lebanon's Maronite Foundation in the World.

They consist of six jurisdictions that submit to the authority of the pope, with the Maronite church being the largest Christian group in the country.

There are also four eastern Orthodox communities, three Protestant sects and the Egyptian Coptic church, the latest to have been officially recognised.

The Maronite Church traces its origins to the fourth century Syrian monk Saint Maron, who sought refuge in north Lebanon's Qadisha Valley after fleeing persecution.

It united with Rome in 1736, but maintains its own traditions and practices, including a liturgy in the ancient Syriac language.

Many of today's Christians are descendants of those who converted to Latin, Protestant and Anglican rites during the Ottoman Empire's various alliances with European powers in the 19th century.

The Armenians, who fled genocide in Turkey during World War I, are divided into mainly Apostolic (Orthodox), as well as Catholic and Protestant churches.

The Chaldeans, who are affiliated with Rome, came from Iraq in the 1950s, attracted by what was then an oasis dominated by Christians in a region shaken by nationalist coups.

Maronites, who today number just under one million, were the most powerful community prior to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Their influence has since waned as their numbers drop through emigration and low fertility rates.

The Maronites along with some 310,000 Greek Orthodox and 204,000 Greek Catholics -- a sect that split from Rome in the 18th century -- represent nearly all of Lebanon's 1.59 million Christians.


Mixed verdict by Israeli court for settlers who burned Palestinian teen alive

Syria regime denies chemical weapons use

Erdogan: Turkey will not apologise to Russia

Iran pilgrims break through Iraq border fence

Tunisia olive production at risk of halving by 2030

UAE says ready to commit ground troops in Syria

3 Saudi soldiers killed on Yemen border

Syrians negotiate rebel exit from Homs

Frustration grows as Tunisia keeps border shut over deadly blast

France says cooperation with Syria not possible under Assad regime

Iran: Saudi plan for Syria ignores Vienna agreements

Iraq PM says country has sufficient forces to fight IS

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning