Religion in Tonga
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The king and the majority of the royal family are members of the Free Wesleyan Church (Methodist) which claims some 40,000 adherents in the country. There are four other Methodist denominations in the country. The Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each have a strong presence in the country as well. There is also a small Seventh-day Adventist Church group (Anglicans), some adherents of the Bahá'í Faith in Tonga, and there are even some Tongan Muslims.
Tongans are ardent church goers. Church service usually follows a call and response structure. Singing in the church is often done a cappella. Although church attends primarily to the spiritual needs of the population, it also functions as the primary social hub. As consequence people who go to a church of another denomination are absolutely not shunned.
Sunday in Tonga is celebrated as a strict sabbath, enshrined so in the constitution, and despite some voices to the opposite, the Sunday ban is not likely to be abolished soon. No trade is allowed on Sunday, except essential services, after special approval by the minister of police. Those that break the law risk a fine or imprisonment.
According to the last official census in 1996, 41% of the population of Tonga belonged to the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, 16% to the Roman Catholic Church, 14% to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 12% to the Free Church of Tonga, 17% to other groups. However, both Roman Catholics and Mormons state that the number of their adherents is higher than reported, and a 2006 survey conducted by the Free Wesleyan Church revealed its membership comprised only 35 percent of the population. The Tokaikolo Church (a local offshoot of the Methodist Church), Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Anglicans are also present. Other than Christian denominations the next largest religion is of the Baha'i Faith. Islam, and Hinduism have small numbers of adherents.
The Bahá'í Faith in Tonga started after being set as a goal to introduce the religion in 1953, and Bahá'ís arrived in 1954. With conversions and pioneers the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1958. Less than forty years later, in 1996, the Bahá'ís of Tonga established their paramount Bahá'í school in the form of the Ocean of Light International School. Around 2004 there were 29 local spiritual assemblies and about 5% of the national population were members of the Bahá'í Faith though the Tonga Broadcasting Commission maintained a policy that does not allow discussions by members of the Bahá'í Faith of its founder, Bahá'u'lláh on its radio broadcasts. Foreign missionaries are active in the country and operate freely. The Constitution of Tonga provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The US government found that there were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.
|Religion (2006 Census)||Persons||% of Pop.|
|Free Wesleyan Church||38,052||37.3|
|Latter Day Saint||17,109||16.8|
|Free church of Tonga||11,599||11.4|
|Church of Tonga||7,295||7.1|
|Seventh Day Adventist||2,282||2.2|
|Assembly of God||2,350||2.3|
|Constitutional Church of Tonga||941||0.9|
|No Religious affiliation||28||0.0|
|Refuse to answer||1,509||1.5|
- Tonga Broadcasting - Latest Census Reveals Population of Tonga Has Grown by 4.3%
- International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Tonga. 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.
- "Tonga Facts and Figures", Encarta (Microsoft), Online, 2008, retrieved 2008-09-15.
- Hassall, Graham (1992), "Pacific Baha'i Communities 1950-1964", in H. Rubinstein, Donald, Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference, University of Guam Press & Micronesian Area Research Center, Guam, pp. pp.73–95
- Tuitahi, Sione; Bolouri, Sohrab (2004-01-28), "Tongan Baha'is parade to the palace", Bahá'í World News Service
- Hassall, Graham (1996), "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific Issues and Prospects", Bahá'í Studies Review 6: pp. 1–10
- Bahá'í International Community (2006-07-17), "Ocean of Light School celebrates 10th anniversary", Bahá'í World News Service
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2006-09-15). "International Religious Freedom Report - Tonga". United States State Department. Retrieved 2008-09-15.