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.

 

Egypt, France agree to step up cooperation against terrorism

Syria, Russia support UN in suspending Aleppo fighting

Pope to rebuild bridges with Islamic world in Turkey visit

OPEC meets for pivotal decision on oil output

Lebanese diva Sabah passes away

Powers to push for Iran nuclear deal before new deadline

Iraqi forces, tribesmen battle IS jihadists in Ramadi

Egypt jails 78 minors for pro-Morsi protests

US slams Assad regime for ‘continued slaughter’

Regime indiscriminate strikes kill scores in Islamic State 'capital' in Syria

Putin meets with Syria Foreign Minister in Black Sea retreat of Sochi

Britain rushes to fight terror with controversial bill

Gunmen kill 3 Egypt policemen in fresh terrorist attack

Iran lawmakers finally approve third Rouhani science minister pick

Turkey clears only suspect in alleged poisoning of former president

Huthis humiliate Al-Ahmar clan with capture of Sanaa headquarters

Christians hold out in Syria second city despite Daesh threat

Libya’s Derna emerges as new IS stronghold

Egypt to reopen Rafah border crossing Wednesday

Egypt leader begins two-day trip to France

Tribesmen blow up Yemen’s main oil pipeline

Russia trims oil output

UN chief calls for halt to Libya air strikes

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy

Morocco arrests six over online IS allegiance pledge

Iraqi forces retake areas near Iran border from jihadists

Southern Morocco storms claim eight lives

Marzouki, Essebsi set for runoff in Tunisia presidential vote

Biden wraps up Turkey visit without breakthrough on Syria

Sudan launches investigation into claims of 'mass rape' in Darfur village

Assad urges ‘real pressure’ on backers of 'terror'