Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
Religious Adherence, 2010 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 71,498 square miles and a population of 19 million. Sunnis constitute 74 percent of the population and are present throughout the country. Other Muslim groups, including Alawites, Ismailis, and Shi'a, together constitute 13 percent. Druze account for three percent of the population. Various Christian groups comprise the remaining 10 percent.
The minority Alawite sect holds an elevated political status disproportionate to its numbers because President Asad and his family are Alawites.
The majority of Christians adhere to the Eastern groups that have existed in the country since the earliest days of Christianity. The main Eastern groups belong to the autonomous Orthodox churches, the Uniate churches (which recognize the Roman Catholic Pope), or the independent Nestorian Church. There is also a small Yezidi population, and there are approximately 40 Jews. It is difficult to obtain precise population estimates for religious subgroups due to government sensitivity to sectarian demographics.
The largest Christian group is the Greek Orthodox Church, known in the country as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Most citizens of Armenian descent belong to the Armenian (Apostolic) Church, which uses an Armenian liturgy. The largest Uniate church in the country is the Greek Catholic Church. Other Uniate groups include the Maronite Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, and the Chaldean Catholic Church, which derives from the Nestorian Church. Protestant Christian denominations include Baptists and Mennonites. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) is also present.
Most Christians live in urban centers in and around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, and Lattakia, although significant numbers live in the Hasaka governorate in the northeast. The majority of Alawites live in the mountainous areas of the coastal Lattakia governorate. A significant majority of the Druze population resides in the rugged Jabal al-Arab region in the southeast, and most are located in the southern governorate of Suweida. The few remaining Jews are concentrated in Damascus and Aleppo. Yezidis are found primarily in the northeast.
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.