Dateline Beirut, Issues, Religion

Lebanon: no census, no statistics

6 Comments 11 June 2013

aaja_shady pic beirut By Shadi Taha
American Academy of Beirut

Identifying all Lebanese as ethnically Arab is wrong, though this is widely done. In reality, the Lebanese “are descended from many different peoples who have occupied, invaded, or settled this corner of the world,” making Lebanon, “a mosaic of closely interrelated cultures,” according to the Wikipedia page about Lebanon.

While at first glance, this ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity might seem to cause civil and political unrest, “for much of Lebanon’s history this multitudinous diversity of religious communities has coexisted with little conflict,” the Wikipedia page observes.

About 99% of the population of Lebanon includes numerous Muslim sects and Christian denominations. Because the matter of religious balance is a sensitive political issue, a national census has not been conducted since 1932, before the founding of the modern Lebanese state. Consequently there is an absence of accurate data on the relative percentages of the population of the major religions and groups.

Worldwide, about 95% of Lebanese people are primarily Arab and the rest of are Armenians.
Lebanon has by far the largest proportion of Christians of any Arab country, but both Christians and Muslims are sub-divided into many splinter sects and denominations. All population statistics are by necessity controversial, and all denominations and sects have a vested interest in inflating their own numbers.

Sunnis, Shi’as, Maronites and Greek Orthodox (the four largest denominations) all often claim that their particular religious affiliation holds a majority in the country, adding up to over 150% of the total population, even before counting the other denominations.

One of the rare things that most Lebanese religious leaders will agree on is to avoid a new general census, for fear that it could trigger a new round of denominational conflict.

Your Comments

6 Comments so far

  1. Rania Najem AAB, Beirut, Lebanon says:

    It’s true dear Shadi, I agree with you .
    Besides, we should take advantage of what we are , and the country (lebanon)we belong to.

  2. We as Lebanese should definitely maintain our peace by accepting different religions and by embracing this diversity. Good work Shady.

  3. You’re right Shadi, Lebanese leaders try to avoid a new general census. But, once a fair elections law is in place, all religious groups will feel that they are properly represented in the parliament and no one will be worried about the results of a new census.

  4. Fatima Jomaa says:

    Great Story! I really enjoyed it, Keep up the good work:)

  5. Matt says:

    Has anyone tried to conduct an independent census or a simply a survey?

  6. April Kincaid says:

    That’s unbelievable! So many different types of people live there and no one knows the exact amount. If having a census may spark more political conflict, I say no more census!


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