Religion in Haiti
Religion is professed by almost all Haitians: According to the CIA World Factbook, the religious demographics of Haiti is as follows: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3% (Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, Buddhism).
The most professed denomination by far is Roman Catholicism. Similar to the rest of Latin America, Haiti was colonized by Roman Catholic European powers. Following in this legacy, Catholicism was enshrined in the Haitian constitution as the official state religion until 1987, and between 80 and 85% of Haitians are Catholics. Pope John Paul II visited Haiti in 1983. In a speech in the capital of Port-au-Prince, he criticized the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier; it is believed that the impact of this speech on the Catholic bureaucracy in Haiti contributed to his removal in 1986.
According to the Catholic Church in Haiti, the ten dioceses of the two ecclesiastical provinces of Haiti count up to 251 parishes and about 1500 Christian rural communities. The local clergy has 400 diocesan priests and 300 seminarians. There are also 1300 religious missionary priests belonging to more than 70 religious order and fraternities. Vocations to the priesthood are plentiful.
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti is the Anglican Communion diocese consisting of the entire territory of Haiti. It is part of Province 2 of the Episcopal Church (United States). Its cathedral, Holy Trinity (French: Cathédrale Sainte Trinité) located in the corner of Avenue Mgr. Guilloux and Rue Pavée in downtown Port-au-Prince, has been destroyed six times, including in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church (United States), with 83,698 members reported in 2008.
The New World Afro-diasporic religion of Vodou is also practiced. Vodou encompasses several different traditions, and consists of a mix encompassing African, European and indigenous Taíno religious elements. In this way, it is very similar to other Latin American syncretist movements, such as the Cuban Santería. It is more widespread in rural parts of the country, partly due to negative stigmas attached to its practice.
According to the CIA World factbook, about 50% of the population practices Vodou. This figure is, however, contested. Note that this overlaps the practice of other religions.
There is a small Muslim community in Haiti, mainly residing in Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien and its surrounding suburbs. The history of Islam on the island of Hispaniola (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) begins with the slavery in Haïti.
Many Muslims were imported as slaves to Haiti. Their Islamic heritage has persisted in the culture of native Haitians. In 2000, Nawoon Marcellus, a member of Fanmi Lavalas from San Raphael, became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies of Haïti.
The Bahá'í Faith in Haiti begins with a mention by `Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, in 1916 as one of the island countries of the Caribbean being among the places Bahá'ís should take the religion to. The first Bahá'í to visit Haiti was Leonora Armstrong in 1927. After that others visited until Louis George Gregory visited in January 1937 and he mentions a small community of Bahá'ís operating in Haiti. The first long term pioneers, Ruth and Ellsworth Blackwell, arrived in 1940. Following their arrival the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly of Haiti was formed in 1942 in Port-au-Prince. From 1951 the Haitian Bahá'ís participated in regional organizations of the religion until 1961 when Haitian Bahá'ís elected their own National Spiritual Assembly and soon took on goals reaching out into neighboring islands. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying mostly on the World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 21000 Bahá'ís in Haiti in 2005.
There is a group of Judaism predominately residing in Port-au-Prince, where the community today meets at the home of businessman billionaire Gilbert Bigio, a Haitian of Syrian descent. Bigio's father first settled in Haiti in 1925 and was active in the Jewish community. In November 1947, his father played a significant role in Haiti's support for the statehood of Israel in a vote to the United Nations. Every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, services are held at his residence. The last Jewish wedding to take place in Haiti occurred 10 years ago; Bigio’s daughter, while the last bris was done for his son, more than 30 years ago. Bigio owns the only Torah in all of the country, which he provides to the community for services.
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