Religion in Kiribati
According to 1999 government statistics, Christian groups form about 96% of the Kiribati population by census counts. The Christian population is divided among general population by census counts as the Roman Catholic Church, 55 percent; Kiribati Protestant Church, 36 percent; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 2 percent; and the Seventh-day Adventists, 2 percent. Several of the smaller Christian churches claim to have higher numbers of adherents, but there is no independent confirmation. Persons with no religious affiliation account for less than one percent of the population. Members of the Catholic Church are concentrated in the northern islands, while Protestants are the majority in the southern islands.
Missionaries introduced Christianity into the area in the mid-19th century. They are currently present and operate freely. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice occur, but are relatively infrequent.
The only substantial non-Christian population is of the Bahá'í Faith. The Bahá'í Faith in Kiribati begins after 1916 with a mention by `Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, that Bahá'ís should take the religion to the Gilbert Islands which form part of modern Kiribati. The first Bahá'ís pioneered to the island of Abaiang(aka Charlotte Island, of the Gilbert Islands), on March 4, 1954. They encountered serious opposition from some Catholics on the islands and were eventually deported and the first convert banished to his home island. However in one year there was a community of more than 200 Bahá'ís and a Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly. Three years later the island where the first convert was sent to was found to now have 10 Bahá'ís. By 1963 there were 14 assemblies.
As the Ellice Islands gained independence as Tuvalu and the Gilbert Islands and others formed Kiribati, the communities of Bahá'ís also reformed into separate institutions of National Spiritual Assemblies in 1981. The Bahá'ís had established a number schools by 1963 and there are still such today - indeed the Ootan Marawa Bahá'í Vocational Institute being the only teacher training institution for pre-school teachers in Kiribati. The census figures are consistently between 2 and 3% for the Bahá'ís while the Bahá'ís claim numbers above 17%. All together the Bahá'ís now claim more than 10,000 local people have joined the religion over the last 50 years and there are 38 local spiritual assemblies.
- International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Kiribati. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- `Abdu'l-Bahá (1991) [1916-17]. Tablets of the Divine Plan (Paperback ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 40–42. ISBN 0-87743-233-3.
- Bahá'í International Community (2004-03-04). "Sailing in for a jubilee". Bahá'í World News Service.
- Hassall, Graham (1996). "Bahá'í Faith in the Asia Pacific Issues and Prospects". Bahá'í Studies Review 6. pp. 1–10.
- Finau, Makisi; Teeruro Ieuti, Jione Langi (1992). Forman, Charles W., ed. Island Churches: Challenge and Change. Pacific Theological College and Institute for Pacific Studies. pp. 101–2, 107. ISBN 978-982-02-0077-7.
- Graham, Hassall (1992). "Pacific Baha'i Communities 1950-1964". In Rubinstein, Donald H. (ed). Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference. University of Guam Press & Micronesian Area Research Center, Guam. pp. 73–95.
- Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land. "The Bahá'í Faith: 1844-1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá'í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963". pp. 26, 28.
- Hassall, Graham; Universal House of Justice. "National Spiritual Assemblies statistics 1923-1999". Assorted Resource Tools. Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 2008-04-02.