Religion in Mauritius
Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation, with Hinduism being the most widely professed faith. The people of Indian descent (Indo-Mauritian) follow mostly Hinduism and Islam. The Franco-Mauritians, Creoles and Sino-Mauritians follow Christianity. A minority of Sino-Mauritians also follow Buddhism and other Chinese-related religions. According to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius, Hinduism is the major religion at 48.54%, followed by Christianity at 32.71% (with Catholicism as the largest Christian denomination at 26.26 %, followed by Islam 17.30% and Buddhism 0.18% in terms of number of adherents.
The constitution prohibits discrimination on religious grounds and provides for freedom to practice or change one's religion. The government provides money to the Roman Catholic Church, Church of England, Presbyterian Church of Mauritius, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, and Muslims according to their numbers in the census in addition to tax-exempt status. Other religious groups can register and be tax-exempt but receive no subsidy. Religious public holidays are the Hindu festivals of Maha Shivaratree, Ougadi, Thaipoosam Cavadee, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Diwali; the Christian festivals of Assumption and Christmas; and the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.
Hinduism originally came to Mauritius mainly through Indians who worked as indentured labourers on the island following the abolition of slavery. Today, Hinduism is a major religion in Mauritius, representing 48.54% of the total population of the country according to the 2011 census carried out by Statistics Mauritius. This makes Mauritius the country having the highest percentage of Hindus in Africa and third highest percentage of Hindus in the world after Nepal and India, respectively.
One of the biggest festivals on the island is Mahasivaratri, or the 'Great Night of Siva'. During this annual Hindu celebration, which takes place in the months of February and March, four to nine days of ceremony and fasting lead up to an all-night vigil of Siva worship and Ganesha worship.
There is also a significant migrant population of Bhumihars in Mauritius who have made a mark for themselves in different fields; they are still in touch with their family members in India and there are instances of marital relations between them to keep their cultural identity intact.
Catholics make up 83% of Mauritius's Christians (26% of the total population or 324,811). The other recognized and subsidized religions include the Church of England which on the island is the Diocese of Mauritius in the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean which has 2,788 members according to the census; the Presbyterian Church of Mauritius with 501 members, and the Seventh-day Adventists with 4,428 members. Other Christian denominations include three Pentecostal groups Assembly of God with 8,692, Mission Salut et Guérison with 3,731, and Pentecotiste Church with 6,817. About 47,774 just listed Christian on the census. Jehovah's Witnesses have 2,173 members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports 471 members in 2 congregations; the census reports 40.
Christianity came to Mauritius with the first inhabitants, the Dutch. However, the Dutch abandoned the island in 1710. The French brought Christianity again when they arrived in 1715. From 1723, there was a law whereby all slaves coming to the island must be baptised Catholic. This law does not seem to have been strictly adhered to. After they had taken Mauritius from the French during the Napoleonic Wars, the British tried to turn Mauritius Protestant during the 1840s and 1850s.
Franco-Mauritians, usually having the same religion and denomination as the Creoles, have sometimes emphasised their differences from the Creoles by practising more traditionally, for instance celebrating Mass in Latin. In contrast to the situation in other African countries, Christianity is not seen in Mauritius as being an African religion. Today Christianity is practiced by 31.7% of the total population.
Islam is practiced by 17.3% of the Mauritian population. Approximately 95 percent of these are Sunni Muslims, having an understanding of the Urdu language. Within the Muslim community, there are three distinct ethnicities that exist, notably the Memons and the Surtees (who are rich merchants who came from Kutch and Surat province of Gujarat in India), then the "Hindi Calcattias" who came to Mauritius as indentured labourers from Bihar. Humeirah, a novel by Sabah Carrim, is a story about the Memons and the "Hindi Calcattias" set on the island of Mauritius.
Other languages include Bhojpuri, Gujarati, and Tamil. Among the Shi'a minority, some have their origins in different parts of South Asia, while others are adherents of the Shia Ismaili sect from East Africa. The majority of Shias are Ithnā‘ashariyyah with small Ismaili sect.
The first purpose-built mosque in Mauritius is the Camp des Lascars Mosque in around 1805. It is now officially known as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jummah Mosque in Port Louis was built in the 1850s and is often described as one of the most beautiful religious building in Mauritius by the Ministry of Tourism's guide. There are many smaller mosques in the towns and villages. The highest concentration of Muslims is found in the capital Port Louis, predominantly in the Plaine Verte, Ward IV, Valle Pitot and Camp Yoloff neighborhood.
Most people of the Muslim community follows the Sunni belief. However, there are also the Shia, Tablighi Jamaat, and a minority of Wahhabi and Ahmadi. According to the 2011 census, there were 1265 Ahmadis. The Islamic Authority recognized by the Government is Jummah Mosque Port Louis.
The Bahá'í Faith was introduced to the Mauritius by Ottilie Rhein in 1953. For opening a new territory to the Faith during the Ten Year Crusade, Ottilie Rhein was designated a Knight of Bahá'u'lláh by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. According to the 2011 government census, there were 639 Bahá'ís in the Mauritius. Other sources state there are 23,703 Bahá'ís.
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