- Religion in Lebanon
Lebanon has several different main religions. The main two religions are Christianity (the Maronite Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East) and Islam (Sunni and Shia). There is also the Druze minority religion.
No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (i.e. religious) balance. The CIA World Factbook shows that of those residing in Lebanon, 59.7% are Muslims (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Sufi and Alawites) and 39.0% are Christians (mostly Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Melkite Greek Catholics, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholics) and 1.3% "Other". However, as soon as the diaspora is included, the Christians become an absolute majority. Lebanon has a population of Mhallamis also known as Mardinli), most of whom migrated from northeast Syria and southeast Turkey are estimated to be between 75,000 and 100,000 and considered to be part of the Sunni population. These have in recent years been granted Lebanese citizenship and, coupled with several civil wars between Islamic extremists and the Lebanese military that have caused many Christians to flee the country, have re-tipped the demographic balance in favour of the Muslims and the Sunnis in particular. In addition, many thousands of Arab Bedouins in the Bekaa and in the Wadi Khaled region, who are entirely Sunnis, were granted Lebanese citizenship. Lebanon also has a Jewish population, estimated at less than 100. However, it is believed that that figure is false since Jews in Lebanon generally hide their identity in fear due to wide-spread anti-semitism in the country.
Even though 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 held in another country are recognized by Lebanese civil authorities.
Legally registered Muslims form around 54% of population (Shia, Sunni, Alawite). Legally registered Christians form up to 41%(Maronite, Greek Orthodox-Christian, Greek Catholic, Armenian, Evangelical, other). Druze form around 4%. A small minority of 1% includes Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist individuals.
Even though non-religion is not recognized by the state, in 2009, Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud made it possible to remove your sect from official documents, but this does not deny the religious authorities complete control over civil family issues inside the country.
Recent statistics estimates total religious population as low as 84%. Other 11% believe in God, but refuse to follow one defined religious culture. In addition, 5% claimed to be Atheist or Agnostics.
Geographical distribution of sects in Lebanon
Many Lebanese have grown sensitive to approaching the sect issue; when a Lebanese asks his friend "From where are you?" he is most probably asking about his sect. Sunnis are mainly residents of the major cities: western part of Beirut, Tripoli, and Saida (Sidon). They also live in areas like Akkar, Ikleem al Kharoub, and West Bekaa. Shiites are mainly spread in South Lebanon, Baalback area, Hermel area, and southern suburbs of Beirut. Christians are widely spread in the eastern part of Beirut city and its suburbs, northern part of mount Lebanon, north Lebanon, Zahleh (Bekaa) and Jezzine (South). Druze are spread in southern Mount Lebanon and Hasbayah Region (South Lebanon)
Although the geographical distribution is not pure, usually the "where from" question can give you a clear indication about the religion of the person.
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