The term ‘Middle East’ is defined here to include the countries from Mauritania through to Iran and from Sudan and Somalia to Turkey. It is almost impossible to provide exact figures, but the total Christian population forms about 3% (12 million) of the region’s inhabitants. Of this 3%, approximately 65% are Orthodox, 20% are Catholic and 15% are Protestant. There are known Muslim converts or groups of converts in all of the countries in the region.

The population in the Middle East is estimated to be growing at somewhere between 2.2% and 2.6% per year. There is no sign that the current trend of a decreasing percentage of Christians in the region will change. This declining ratio reinforces the vulnerability of Christians, highlighting the need for MEC’s work in the region.

The countries and territories in the region are categorised here according to the composition and legal status of the church.

category 1: church mostly made up of expatriate Christians

includes Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain
population: 43 million
large numbers of foreign workers, including a large number of Christians

category 2: small church, not legally recognised

includes Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Somalia
population: 101 million
this category has by far the smallest number of Christians

category 3: church recognised by government

includes Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, JordanIraq, Iran, Palestine and Northern Cyprus
population: 321 million
most national Christians live in this region