Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
Religious Adherence, 2006 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 703,816 square miles and a population of 5.8 million. Ninety-seven percent of the population is Sunni Muslim. Small Christian communities consist almost exclusively of sub-Saharan migrants and small numbers of American and European expatriate workers. Two bishops--one in Tripoli, one in Benghazi--lead an estimated 50,000 Roman Catholics. Catholic clergy operate in larger cities, working primarily in hospitals, orphanages, and with the elderly or physically impaired. A single priest in Tripoli and a bishop resident in Cairo lead the Anglican community. A Greek Orthodox archbishop resident in Tripoli and a priest in Tripoli and Benghazi serve 80 regular Orthodox churchgoers. The Ukrainian Embassy in Tripoli also maintains a small Orthodox church for Tripoli's Russian-speaking population. There are Unitarian churches in Tripoli and Benghazi as well as small Unitarian congregations scattered throughout the country. An evangelical Protestant church in Tripoli serves a population of primarily African migrant workers. While the country historically has no Shi'a community, there were reports that small numbers of Iraqi Shi'a fleeing sectarian tensions in Iraq immigrated during the reporting period. There is no known Jewish community.
Between one hundred and two hundred Anglicans, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, attend weekly Friday services in Tripoli. An estimated 80 Orthodox Christians, including members of the Greek, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Russian communities, attend weekly Friday services in Tripoli. Hundreds of African migrant Protestants and hundreds of Catholics also attend services in Tripoli.
Approximately 1.5 to 2 million foreigners reside in the country, mostly from neighboring Arab countries and sub-Saharan Africa, with smaller numbers from South and Southeast Asia. Virtually all non-Sunni Muslims are foreigners. While there was no information on the number of foreign missionaries, the Government criminalizes the proselytizing of Muslims and therefore forbids missionary activity aimed at citizens. Government claims that all citizens are "by definition" Sunni Muslim, coupled with broad prohibitions on any sort of independent political association, prevent citizens from identifying themselves as members of any religious or political group.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. Estimates for the country were taken from the United States Department of
State's Report on
International Religious Freedom. "The International Religious Freedom report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998." The report profiles issues of religious adherence and freedom for each nation in the world. The information for each country was derived from a combination of "government and religious officials, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, human rights monitors, religious groups, and academics." Section I of each specific country report contains information on the religious demography of that nation. It is important to note that the estimates are of the proportion of national citizens (excluding resident non-nationals) who identify with specific religious traditions.
3. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.