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Lebanon has several different main religions. The country has the most religiously diverse society in the Middle East, comprising 17 recognized religious sects. 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 most recent study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that approximately Lebanon's population is estimated to be 54% Muslim (27% Sunni; 27% Shia), 5% Druze, who do not consider themselves to be Muslims, 41% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 7% other Christian denominations like Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant).
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.
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 the 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 0.5% includes Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist individuals.
Even though non-religion is not recognized by the state, in 2009, the Minister of the Interior Ziad Baroud made it possible to have the religious sect removed from the Lebanese identity card, this does not, however, deny the religious authorities complete control over civil family issues inside the country.
Saint George Orthodox Cathedral in Downtown Beirut
The St. Georges Greek-Orthodox Cathedral on Nejme Square