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.

 

Kerry cites ‘some steps forward’ in Gaza truce efforts

Qatar emir in unannounced visit to Saudi

Is Tunisia returning to old regime censorship?

Libya government to hand over power to new parliament

Islamic State expands into tourism in Syria, Iraq

Mladenov pleads for UN help to end IS 'atrocities' in Iraq

Hamas hails suspension of Israel flights as 'great victory'

Lebanon army records first case of desertion to join Syria Nusra Front

Iraq gunmen kill female former candidate for parliament

Turkey hunts for nine intelligence officers in wire-tapping probe

Suspension of hostilities in Gaza to allow medical assistance

Assassination of famed Somali musician and lawmaker

Sisi defends Egypt in trying to broker Gaza truce

Syria welcomes nomination of Staffan de Mistura as new UN envoy

Iraq lawmakers stall presidential election as violence yields grim crop of bodies

Yemen president calls for unity

Etihad helps Jet Airways return to profit

HRW: Iraq air strikes wreaking awful toll on civilians

Kuwait revokes pro-opposition TV, newspaper licences

Twin suicide bombing shakes Libya's Benghazi

Car bomb rips through Baghdad checkpoint

Israel escalates merciless Gaza onslaught

Turkey detains dozens of senior police officers for 'spying'

Saudi Arabia ousts head of Syria opposition government

Maliki meets Sunni tribal leaders in new bid to gain support

Israeli envoy: Our soldiers deserve a Nobel Peace Prize

Rights group denounces Kuwait's revocation of citizenship

Kerry again places onus on Hamas to accept ceasefire

Britain finds evidence of effort to Islamise state-run schools

Fiercest fighting in months hits Eastern Damascus

Iraq slams Jordan for hosting 'unacceptable' meeting of Sunni critics

Erdogan sacrifices Gaza mediation in favour of anti-Israel diatribes

Israel hits Al-Jazeera Gaza office

Syria oil industry suffers huge losses because of war

UN calls for help to vaccinate Syria toddlers against polio

Erdogan has stopped talking to Obama

Israel confirms kidnapped soldier is dead

South Sudan rebels pledge to pull troops out fails

Rouhani: More negotiations only solution for nuclear deal

Israel identify 12 soldiers killed over the weekend

UAE pledges $41 million aid for Gaza reconstruction

Security Council condemns persecution of Iraqi Christians

Islamists lose in Libya parliament elections

Deadly clashes erupt in Benghazi

27 Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza assault