A country of diversity

When thinking of the Middle East, one of the first assumptions I made was related to religion. I assumed that almost everyone would be Muslim. I definitely thought wrong. When walking in the streets of Beirut you might come across a mosque, but chances are almost as big that you see a church.

A study conducted in 2011 by Statistics Lebanon estimates that 54% of the population is Muslim (27% Sunni, 27% Shia), 40.4% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite, 1% Protestant and 5.4% other Christian denominations) and 5.6% Druze. There are also very small numbers of Jews, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

In downtown Beirut, you are even able to find a church and a mosque right next to each other. But the diversity and equality go further than what we see in the streets, also in politics you can find an organized division of religions. The parliamentary seat allocation is officially divided equally by law. The Taif Agreement was signed on 22 October 1989. This agreement was made to arrange the equal division between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the confessions of each category and proportionately between the regions. The position of the President is traditionally assigned to a Maronite, the Prime Minister is a traditionally Sunni Post and the position of the Speaker a traditionally Shia post.

Whether this is still completely practiced in current politics stays a bit unclear, but for me this at least shows that Lebanon is a very diverse country that is able to bring together a lot of religions in a peaceful way. One more reason to love Lebanon.

Sources:
– International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, United States Department of State – Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
– The Taef Agreement, as published by the Lebanese Government

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