Religion in Suriname

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Religion in Suriname is characterized by a range of religious beliefs and practices due to its ethnic diversity. According to recent census data, 40.7 percent of the population of Suriname is Christian, including Roman Catholics and Protestant groups—among them Moravian, Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, Evangelical, Baptist, and Methodist.[1] 19.9 percent of the population is Hindu, 13.5 percent is Muslim, 3.3 percent follow indigenous religions, 15 percent claim to not know their religion, 4.4 percent claim no faith, and 2.5 percent declare unspecified faiths.

Indigenous religions are practiced by the Amerindian and Afro-descendant Maroon populations. Amerindians, found principally in the interior and to a lesser extent in coastal areas, practice shamanism, a worship of all living things, through a medicine man, or piaiman. Maroons, who inhabit the interior, worship nature through a practice that has no special name, and they also worship their ancestors through a rite called Winti. Citizens of Amerindian and Maroon origin who classify themselves as Christian often simultaneously follow indigenous religious customs, with the acknowledgment of their Christian church leaders.

The Jewish community numbers 1,550, and there are small numbers of Bahá'ís and Buddhists. Other groups include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the World Islamic Call Society. [2] Missionaries are present. "No religion in Suriname has any problem with any other religion," quips Guido Robles, a prominent Jewish businessman in Paramaribo. "All the problems are caused by the politicians." [3]

Many political parties, including six of the eight governing coalition parties, have strong ethnic ties, and members tend to adhere to or practice one faith. For example, within the governing coalition, the majority of members of the mostly ethnic-Creole National Party of Suriname (NPS) is Moravian, members of the mostly ethnic-Indian United Reformed Party are Hindu, and those of the mostly ethnic-Javanese Pertjaja Luhur Party tend to be Muslim.[4] However, parties have no requirement that political party leaders or members adhere to a particular religion. For example, the President, who is also the leader of the NPS, is a practicing Catholic.

There is no direct correlation between religious affiliation and socioeconomic status; however, those who practice indigenous religions in the small villages of the interior generally have a lower socioeconomic status. With the exception of those following indigenous practices, religious communities are not heavily concentrated in any particular region.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The US government found no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.


The religious demography of Suriname as per the 2004 Census is as follows:[5]

Religion Suriname Paramaribo Wanica Nickerie Coronie Saramacca Commewijne Marowijne Para Brokopondo Sipaliwini
Christian 40.7% 47.9% 29.7% 20.6% 75.0% 23.5% 22.0% 58.7% 56.5% 52.4% 35.2%
Hindu 19.9% 13.8% 39.9% 43.2% 2.2% 44.6% 24.5% 0.9% 4.9% 0.4% 0.3%
Islam 13.5% 9.4% 21.7% 22.5% 11.0% 18.8% 40.4% 6.8% 11.3% 0.2% 0.1%
Tribal + Other 5.8% 3.8% 3.4% 0.7% 1.6% 3.0% 4.2% 11.5% 6.8% 16.8% 26.8%
None 4.4% 3.9% 2.7% 0.6% 1.8% 1.4% 1.5% 4.7% 8.1% 11.8% 14.8%
Not Known 15.7% 21.1% 2.6% 12.4% 8.4% 8.6% 7.3% 17.4% 12.5% 18.5% 22.9%


The dominant religion in Suriname is Christianity, both in the form of Roman Catholicism and various denominations of Protestantism, the Moravian Church being the oldest.[6] According to the 2012 census data the Pentecostal Churches are the largest Protestant denomination. According to recent census data, 48.4 percent of the population of Suriname is Christian. It is particularly dominant among the Creoles and Maroons. The Creoles and to a lesser degree the Maroons, both descendants of enslaved Africans, converted to Christianity during the colonial period.[7]


Distribution of Hindus by district in Suriname

Hindus are mostly concentrated in Northern coastal regions of Suriname. Most of the Hindus are of Indian origin. According to the 2004 Census, 19.9% of all Surinamese practice Hinduism (However, the census failed to cover 15.7% of the population, so this figure could be skewed).[citation needed] Hindus are mostly concentrated in Nickerie, Wanica and Saramacca where they constitute the largest religious group.[5]


Main article: Islam in Suriname

According to the most recent census, the Muslim population of Suriname represents about 13.5 percent of the country's total population, giving the country the highest proportion of Muslims on the American continent.

Muslims first came to Suriname as slaves from Africa. The next group of Muslims to come to the country consisted of indentured laborers from South Asia and Indonesia, from whom today most Muslims in Suriname are descended.


There has been a Jewish community in Suriname since 1639, when the English government allowed Sephardi Jews to settle the region.[8] The Jewish community is currently struggling due to dwindling funds and membership.