|St. George's Cathedral in Georgetown, Guyana.|
Guyana, located on the South American mainland’s northern coast, occupies an area of 215,000 square km and hosts a population of 773,303 people.
Christianity is the dominant religion in Guyana. Christians account for 57.4% of the population of the country. Hindus also have a significant presence in the country and comprise 28.4% of the nation’s total population. Muslims and believers of other religions like indigenous religions, Buddhists, Rastafarians, and Baha’is accounted for 7.2% and 1.9% of the population of the country, respectively. 2.3% claimed non-affiliation to any religious faith.
The Most Popular Religion In Guyana
Most of Guyana’s Christians are Protestants while a small population of Roman Catholics also live in the country. Other Christian denominations are also active in the nation. Like other countries in the region, the growth of Christianity in the country occurred during the colonial era. The work of Christian missionaries in Guyana helped spread the religion among the indigenous inhabitants of the country. The African slaves brought to work on the plantations owned by the Europeans also converted to Christianity in great numbers. The practice of the faith was regarded as a prerequisite to social acceptance in the region at that time. However, the Africans also maintained their traditional rituals and customs that resulted in the development of a syncretic Afro-Guyanese culture in Guyana.
Hinduism, The Second Largest Religion In Guyana
Although Hinduism has the second highest number of adherents in Guyana, the number of followers of this religion have been falling in recent decades. Most of Guyana’s Hindus trace their origins to India. The Hindus of Guyana celebrate many festivals throughout the year.
Islam In Guyana
Muslims in Guyana also trace their origins to South Asia from where they were brought by the European colonists to work as indentured laborers in the plantations. Different Islamic groups, the Shias, Sunnis, Sufis, and Ahmadiyyas constitute the Muslim population of Guyana. Muslims and Hindus in Guyana share a large part of their culture. They live in perfect harmony in the country and often participate in each other’s festivals.
Traditional Religions Practiced In Guyana
Traditional religions are followed by both Amerindians and African-origin immigrants to Guyana. Although a majority of them have converted to Christianity and their indigenous practices have waned over the years, some indigenous beliefs and rituals are still prevalent in the country. Shamans play a significant role in traditional Guyanese society where shamans are believed to be the connection between the spirits world and humans. Obeah, a folk religion of African origin is also practiced in the country. Obeah incorporates the beliefs and practices of the different immigrant ethnic groups in the country.
Freedom Of Religion In Guyana
Guyana’s Constitution provides for the freedom of religion in the country. The government of the country also generally respects this right of the people. Discrimination on the basis of religion is not known in Guyana. Although the work of missionaries is supported, forced conversions are not tolerated in the country. Although Christian holidays were celebrated as national holidays in the country since decades, other religious holidays received formal recognition only from the 1970’s.
•By Oishimaya Sen Nag
•Culled from www.worldatlas.com