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.

 

Terrorist bomb attack kills 22 at UK pop concert

Trump says Israelis, Palestinians ‘can make a deal’

Bahrain police raid Shiite sit-in killing one protester

US forces raid Al-Qaeda in Yemen, kill seven jihadists

Faz3a, a local NGO mobilising young people to help Mosul refugees

Prominent Egypt rights lawyer detained

Oil producers to extend output curbs at OPEC meeting

NATO aims to break Turkey-Austria partnership deadlock

Tunisia tensions simmer after protester's death

Five dead in Syria car bomb attacks

Syria civilians suffer deadliest month of US-led strikes

Islamists to join Algeria cabinet despite poor results

Tunisia's 2.1% GDP growth marks economic upturn

Trump meets Palestinian leader in Bethlehem

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again

Tunisia police use tear gas on protesters

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity

Turkey's alleged coup ringleaders stand trial

Iran’s reformists sweep to power across major cities

Israel makes concessions to Palestinians 'at Trump's request'

Ivanka hales Saudi progress on women’s rights

Looming showdown between Egypt’s president, judges

Netanyahu says will discuss peace efforts with Trump

Bahrain sentences Shiite cleric to suspended jail term

Trump scandals no issue for Saudi says minister

Saudi women celebrate easing of guardianship system, call for more freedoms

Hamas sentences three to death for commander assassination

Rouhani faces fight with hardliners in US, Iran after election win

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to fight extremism in major speech

Trump tells Sisi he will soon visit Egypt

US, Saudi agree arms deals worth almost $110 billion

Iran's Rouhani wins re-election

Egypt marks MS804 crash with ceremony and no information

Trump lands in Riyadh on first foreign tour

IS bombing kills 35 in Iraq

US Pentagon plans to 'annihilate' IS

Dictator's nephew apologises to Tunisia for corruption

Trump heads to Saudi Arabia as domestic scandals mount

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

US and Saudi Arabia blacklist Hezbollah 'terrorist'

UN envoy slams deadly attack in Libya's south

Syria, allies condemn attack by US-led coalition