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Religion in Guyana

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Published: 16th of August, 2023 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: August 17, 2023 at 13:58 pm

If you have ever wondered what is religion like in Guyana, you have come to the right place because we’re about to fill you in. Guyana’s approximate 800,000 people adhere to one of three major religions.

  1. Hinduism
  2. Christianity
  3. Islam

According to a 2012 national census, 64% of Guyanese identified as Christians, 25% as Hindu, and 7% as Muslim. 3% identified as non-religious and the remaining 1% identified as one of the minority religions such as Judaism, Buddhism, Bahai, and others.

How Religious Groups Evolved in Guyana

The Amerindians

The first people to have inhabited Guyana, the indigenous peoples, practiced a form of spirituality before the arrival of Europeans. Little is known to me of the original religious practices of the Amerindians of Guyana. Some say they believed in a supreme being referred to as “the great spirit.” However, after the arrival of the Europeans, most Amerindians converted to Christianity. Europeans colonized Amerindian villages, restructured them, reorganized them, established Christian churches in them, and even renamed them after their religious saints. Some examples of these include St. Ignatius Village and St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

As a result of European colonization and influence, most Amerindians today are adherents of the Roman Catholic Faith. About ten percent of Amerindians have branched off into other denominations of Christianity such as the Full Gospel Church, Pentecostal, and Assembly of God. Overall, about 98 percent of Amerindians identify as Christian – whether it be Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Pentecostal or other. The remaining two percent is shared out between non-religious, Hinduism, Islam, and minority religions such as the Bahai faith.

European colonization forced Amerindians to forego their original religious beliefs and practices which the Christian church has condemned as sorcery. Nevertheless, a handful of Amerindians still retain knowledge of their original religion and a small fraction still practice it.

The Europeans

Second to arrive on Guyana’s shore are the Europeans – French, Dutch, and British. This group collectively worshipped as Christians – mostly Roman Catholics. Some of the British were Anglicans which resulted in the establishment of several Anglican Churches across Guyana. The Europeans wielded great influence over the people they colonized in Guyana – impelling the vast majority to embrace the Christian faith. A 2012 national census showed that 64% of Guyanese identify as Christian.

The Africans

Little is known to me of the religion of the Africans before they were brought from Africa to the shores of Guyana to work as slaves. However, upon arrival, they were either forced or influenced, or chose to convert on their own accord, to Christianity – the religion of their masters. Throughout the centuries, almost all Africans, despite the cruel treatment meted out to them during slavery, converted to Christianity. Less than 1% retain any knowledge of the traditional religious practices of their forefathers, and even fewer practice their original religion. The Christian Church, established by the Europeans, has condemned the original African religions, like those of the Amerindians, as devil worship or sorcery. This notion has influenced Africans in Guyana to shun the religious knowledge of their fore parents.

Dutch documentation of the 1763 Berbice Slave Uprising illustrates that the slaves even since that time had great respect for the Christian faith. It states that during the uprising, a Christian religious leader was spared violence “because of his relationship with God.” Today, the Africans generally profess strong faith in Christianity. Most Africans belong to one of the Protestant Groups of Christians in Guyana which include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, and Baptist.

The East Indians

The East Indians, who form the largest ethnic group in Guyana, are divided mainly between Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Most East Indians are Hindus, although a growing number of them convert to Christianity on a regular basis. East Indians were brought to Guyana as indentured servants after the abolition of slavery in 1838. Upon arrival, most of them were Hindus (about 70%). About 25% were Muslims, and the about 5% were non-religious.

The history of India suggests that Arab conquest of parts of India resulted in an infiltration of Middle Eastern ethnicities into India. This explains the small Muslim population which made up the East Indian group upon arrival in Guyana. Even today, some Muslims in Guyana are easily distinguished by their Middle Eastern features.

European colonization and influence impelled many East Indians to convert to Christianity. Those who converted were mostly from the Hindu faith. Muslims were, and generally still are, less likely to convert to Christianity than Hindus. Today, about 40% of East Indians identify as Christians, 40% identify as Hindus, 15% identify as Muslims, and 5% identify as non-religious or one of the minority religions.

The Chinese

Little is known of the Chinese or Chinese religious practices in Guyana. However, small groups of Chinese have converted to Christianity in Guyana. The vast majority however, retain their original faith or religious beliefs.

The Portuguese

The Portuguese, like the Chinese, are Christians. Most of the Portuguese worship as Roman Catholics.

In conclusion, Christianity is the largest and fastest growing religious group in Guyana – comprising about 67% of the population. This is perhaps due to the fact that Christians are commanded by their doctrine to “evangelize,” that is, to spread the Word of God to as many people as possible. Other religious groups, like Muslims and Hindus, are not commanded to evangelize. However, they readily share information about their faith if asked, or during conversations.

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