Religion in Suriname

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Religion in Suriname (2012 census)[1]

  Christianity (48.4%)
  Hinduism (22.3%)
  Islam (13.9%)
  Winti (1.8%)
  Javanism (0.8%)
  Other religion (2.1%)
  No religion (7.5%)
  Not stated (3.2%)
Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul in Paramaribo.

Religion in Suriname is characterized by a range of religious beliefs and practices due to its ethnic diversity. The government is vocally supportive of religious diversity and tolerance, and these attitudes are present in general society as well. According to the most recent census (2012), 48.4 percent of the population is Christian (the largest groups being Pentecostalism, the Moravian Church, and the Catholic Church) 22.3 percent is Hindu, 13.9 percent is Muslim, 1.8 percent follows Winti, and 0.8 percent is Javanist. In addition 2.1 percent of the population follows other faiths (including Jehovah's Witnesses), 7.5 percent are atheist or agnostic, and 3.2 percent did not answer the question about their religion.[1]

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, worship of all living things, and their rites are led by medicine men, 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 negligible Jewish community numbers 181,[1] and there are also small numbers of Bahá'ís and Buddhists. Other groups include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the World Islamic Call Society. "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." [2]

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-National Party of Suriname (NPS) is Moravian, most members of the mostly ethnic-Indian Progressive Reform Party are Hindu, and those of the mostly ethnic-Javanese Pertjaja Luhur Party tend to be Muslim.[3] However, parties have no requirement that political party leaders or members adhere to a particular religion.


Religion for Suriname in 2004 and 2012[edit]

The religious demography of Suriname as per the 2004 Census is as follows:[4]

Religion 2004[1] 2012[1]
Number % Number %
Christianity 200,744 40.7 262,320 48.4
Hinduism 98,240 19.9 120,623 22.3
Islam 66,307 13.5 75,053 13.9
Other or none 50,334 10.2 66,560 12.3
Religion not stated 77,204 15.7 17,082 3.2
Total population 492,829 100.0 541,638 100.0

Religion by province in 2004[edit]

Arya Dewaker Hindu temple in Paramaribo.
Districts of Suriname
Interior of a Moravian church.
Mosque Keizerstraat in Paramaribo.
Religion Suriname Para-
maribo (7)
Wanica (10) Nickerie (5) Coronie (3) Sara-
macca (8)
wijne (2)
wijne (4)
Para (6) Broko-
pondo (1)
wini (9)
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%

2012 data by denomination[edit]

Denomination 2012 census[1]
Number %
Catholic Church 117,261 21.6
Pentecostalism (Full Gospel) 60,530 11.18
Moravian Church 60,420 11.16
Jehovah's Witnesses 6,622 1.2
Calvinism 4,018 0.7
Lutheranism 2,811 0.5
Other forms of Christianity 17,280 3.2
Sanatani Hindus 97,311 18
Arya Samaj Hindus 16,661 3.1
Other forms of Hinduism 6,651 1.2
Sunni Islam 21,159 3.9
Ahmadi Islam 14,161 2.6
Other forms of Islam 39,733 7.3
Javanism 4,460 0.8
Judaism 181 0.0
Winti 9,949 1.8
Other faith 4,630 0.9
No faith 40,718 7.5
No answer 17,082 3.2
Total population 541,638 100.0


The dominant religion in Suriname is Christianity, both in the form of Roman Catholicism and various denominations of Protestantism, the Anglican Church being the oldest.[5] According to the 2012 census data 48.4% of the population of Suriname is Christian[1] and the Pentecostal churches are the largest Protestant denomination, closely followed by Moravians.[1]


Distribution of Hindus by district in Suriname.

The story of Hinduism in Suriname is broadly parallel to that in Guyana. Indian indentured labourers were sent to colonial Dutch Guiana by special arrangement between the Dutch and British. The difference is that the Netherlands' more liberal policy toward Hinduism allowed the culture to develop stronger. Examples are the lack of a rigid caste system and the almost universal reading of Gita and Ramayan.[6]

According to the 2012 census of Suriname, Hindus constitute 22.3% of the population.[1] Hindus are mostly concentrated in Northern coastal regions of Suriname: Nickerie, Wanica and Saramacca, where they constitute the largest religious group. There are several hindu temples in Suriname.


According to the most recent census, the Muslim population of Suriname represents about 13.9%[1] of the country's total population, giving the country the highest proportion of Muslims on the American continent.

Muslims that first came to Suriname consisted of indentured laborers from South Asia and Indonesia, from whom today most Muslims in Suriname are descended.


Javanism is followed by 0.8% of the Suriname population. It is followed mainly by the Javanese people in Suriname.[7][8]


There has been a Jewish community in Suriname since 1639, when the English government allowed Sephardi Jews to settle the region.[9] The Jewish community is currently struggling due to dwindling funds and membership.

Religious freedom[edit]

The constitution of Suriname establishes the freedom of religion and outlaws discrimination along religious lines. "Instigating religious hatred" is punishable by fines, and in some cases prison.[10]

Religious groups may register with the government in order to receive financial support. Most groups are registered.[10]

Religious instruction is not allowed in public schools. Private religious schools are allowed, and comprise roughly half of the primary and secondary schools in Suriname. These private schools are partially subsidized by the government. Parents are not allowed to homeschool children for religious reasons[10]

The government engages in vocal support of religious diversity and tolerance, and recognizes the holidays of various religious traditions present in the country as national holidays. The armed forces have chaplains for the Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant faiths.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j 2012 Suriname Census Definitive Results. Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek - Suriname.
  2. ^ Luxner, Larry (2006). "Suriname a culture of tolerance: this thirty-year-old nation is a harmonious home to diverse religious and ethnic groups and the world's largest nature reserve". Bnet. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2009-11-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Christianity in Suriname. Franklin Steven Jabini ISBN 1907713433
  6. ^ "Hindus of South America". Retrieved 2019-06-28.
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Religion Javanese people in Suriname".
  9. ^ "Suriname: Virtual Jewish History Tour". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d International Religious Freedom Report 2017 § Suriname, US State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.