Apia Cathedral

Christianity is the official and largest religion in Samoa, with its various denominations accounting for around 98% of the total population.[1] The article 1 of the Constitution of Samoa states that "Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit".[2]

The following is a distribution of Christian groups as of 2011 (the most recent census available): Congregational Christian (32 percent), Roman Catholic (19 percent), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (15 percent), Methodist (14 percent), Assemblies of God (8 percent) and Seventh-day Adventist (4 percent). Groups together constituting less than 5 percent of the population include Baháʼí, Jehovah's Witnesses, Congregational Church of Jesus, Nazarene, nondenominational Protestant, Baptist, Worship Centre, Peace Chapel, Samoa Evangelism, Elim Church, and Anglican. A comparison of the 2006 and 2011 censuses shows a slight decline in the membership of major denominations and an increase in participation in nontraditional and evangelical groups.

Although there is no official estimate, there are reportedly small numbers of Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and traditional believers, primarily in Apia. The country has one of the world's eight Baháʼí Houses of Worship.

There is a small Muslim community and one mosque.[3][4] The history of Islam in Samoa dates back to before 1985, when Samoa had a number of Muslim workers who were working either for the government or for a United Nations program, but their number was small and hardly affected the local population. In the mid-1980s, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth began operating in the Pacific, and consequently some Samoans began converting to Islam. According to the 2001 census, the number of Samoan Muslims was 48, or 0.03% of the total population. This number has increased to 61 Muslims, or 0.04% of the population, according to the 2006 census.

Demographics

Affiliation 2001 census 2006 census 2011 census 2016 census[5] 2021
Congregational Christian Church in Samoa 35.0% 33.8% 31.8% 29.0% 27.0%
Roman Catholic 19.7% 19.6% 19.4% 18.8% 18.0%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 12.5% 13.3% 15.1% 16.9% 17.6%
Methodist 15.0% 14.3% 13.7% 12.4% 11.8%
Assemblies of God 6.6% 6.9% 8.0% 6.8% 10.1%
Seventh-day Adventist 3.5% 3.5% 3.9% 4.4% 4.9%
Others 7.7% 8.6% 8.1% 11.7% 10.6%

Status of government respect for religious freedom

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution provides for the right to choose, practice, and change the religion of one's choice.[1]

The government does not require religious groups to register.[1]

There is no religious education in public schools, but prayers may be used during the school day.[1]

In 2012, the government observed the following religious holidays as national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, White Monday (Children's Day), Feast of the Ascension and Christmas.[4]

In June 2017, the Samoan Parliament passed a bill to increase support for Christianity in the country's constitution, including a reference to the Trinity. According to The Diplomat, "What Samoa has done is shift references to Christianity into the body of the constitution, giving the text far more potential to be used in legal processes."[6] The preamble to the constitution already described the country as "an independent State based on Christian principles and Samoan custom and traditions."[4]

Status of societal respect for religious freedom

Traditionally, villages tended to have one primary Christian church. Village chiefs often chose the religious denomination of their extended families. Many larger villages had multiple churches serving different denominations and coexisting peacefully.[1]

There can be strong societal pressure at village and local levels to participate in church services and other activities, and to support church leaders and projects financially. In some denominations, financial contributions often totaled more than 30% of family income.[1]

In the past there have been minor tensions between Fa'a Samoa (the Samoan way) and individual religious rights. One of the elements of Fa'a Samoa was the traditional, tightly-knit village community. Often, village elders and the community at large were not receptive toward those who attempted to introduce another denomination or religion into the community. Observers stated that, in many villages throughout the country, leaders forbade individuals to belong to churches outside of the village or to exercise their right not to worship. Villagers in violation of such rules faced fines or banishment from the village.[4]

Freedom of religion in the 2020s

In 2023, the country was scored 3 out of 4 for religious freedom;[7] it was noted that provisions in three government-backed bills (the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, the Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020, and the Judicature Amendment Bill 2020) could limit religious freedom by changing how legal decisions on Land and Titles are reviewed.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "2022 Report on International Religious Freedom: Samoa". US Department of State. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  2. ^ Wyeth, Grant (16 June 2017). "Samoa Officially Becomes a Christian State". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  3. ^ "The World Factbook; U.S. Central Intelligence Agency; last updated 27 March 2014."
  4. ^ a b c d "International Religious Freedom Report 2012: Samoa; United States Department of State, Human Rights and Labor" (Retrieved 19 June 2017). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Final 2016 Census Brief No 1
  6. ^ Wyeth, Grant (16 June 2017). "Samoa Officially Becomes a Christian State". The Diplomat. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  7. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08