The Armenian Constitution separates church and state, while simultaneously establishing the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) as the national church. This means that the AAC enjoys many privileges not granted to other churches. Freedom of religion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, which also allows conscientious objection to military service. Although the government promises the right to freedom of religion, several denominations have filed reports of religious persecution. These reports range from difficulty obtaining building permits to physical and verbal harassment.
Religious demographics of Armenia
Of the 3.1 million people living in Armenia, approximately 98% are of Armenian descent. The majority of these people identify as members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, approximately 92.5%. This is not, however, the country’s only religious identity. Other minority religions, and their respective numbers of followers, include Evangelicals, which total 29,280 adherents among the Armenian population, followed by Catholics (13,996), Jehovah’s Witnesses (8,695), Eastern Orthodox Christians (8 587), Molokan (2,974), Assyrian Church of the East (1,733), Islam (812), Protestant (733), and Mormon (241). Other religions include Judaism, Yazidism and Paganism.
Religions in Armenia with the largest number of followers
As mentioned earlier, the Armenian Apostolic Church is the national religion and has the largest percentage of followers among the Armenian population. This church dates back to the 1st century AD when its ideology was introduced by Bartholomew and Thaddeus, both Christian apostles. Armenia became the first nation in the world to declare Christianity as a national religion in the 4th century. Practitioners of this faith celebrate Christmas on January 6, combining the birth of Jesus with the feast of Epiphany. In 2015, the church canonized all victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. This canonization event is one of the largest in history and the first organized by the church in 400 years. In 2009, the Constitution was amended to make it a crime to proselytize Armenian Apostolic members.
Minor religions in Armenia
The largest non-Christian sect in Armenia is that of the Yazidis, who also represent the largest ethnic minority. Yazidi is a combination of beliefs from several religions, including Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism. As a rule, marriage only takes place between two Yazidis. These people came to present-day Armenia in an attempt to escape the religious persecution of the Ottoman Turks and Sunni Kurds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, this group is building the largest Yazidi temple in the world in a small town in Armenia. The majority of these individuals live around Mount Aragats.
The largest minority religion in Armenia is Evangelical Christianity, with around 29,280 followers. The Armenian Evangelical Church was established in 1846. The church has its roots in the Pietistic Union, a Bible study group of that time. During these meetings, members began to disagree with the practices of the Armenian Apostolic Church. These reformers were excommunicated and organized an independent religious community, the Evangelical Church. Today, this religion is practiced in several countries.
Growth of religions and faith groups in the country
The Armenian Catholic Church, in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, seems to be experiencing the fastest growth in the country. Although centered in Armenia, its practitioners are located in several other countries, including Poland, Lebanon and Syria. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of followers of the Armenian Catholic Church worldwide increased from 593,459 to 736,956.
Religion in Armenia
|Rank||Faith||% of population affiliated with faith|
|1||Armenian Apostolic Church||92.5%|