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Colombia's Religions

 

When it comes to religions in Colombia, Roman Catholicism is far and away the most prevalent. Brought from Spain in the early 1500s, Catholicism is popularly thought to have been spread by fear, intimidation and bribery. The truth is a little more complex. While some missionaries relied on such tactics, others, such as Bartolomé de las Casas, were instrumental in the defense of the Indians and in promoting a religion of love. Either way, Catholicism became firmly established and for centuries was the official religion of Colombia.

 

By hosting the Medell√≠n Conference in 1968, Colombia played an important role in the development and dissemination of Liberation Theology, the idea of utilizing the Christian mission to bring justice to the poor. Despite these developments, the Catholic Church in Colombia has seen its influence wane in recent decades. In 1973, Colombia changed Catholicism from the country‚Äôs official religion to ‚Äúthe religion of the great majority of Colombians.‚ÄĚ Perhaps more damning, the government revoked some of the church‚Äôs power. In particular, Catholic missionaries no longer possessed greater jurisdiction than the government over education and health care in the Colombia‚Äôs mission territories (land with primarily indigenous populations). The church was forced to surrender any right to censor public university texts and enforce the use of the Catholic doctrine in public schools. For good measure, Colombians were also granted the right to contract civil marriages without renouncing their Catholic faith.

 

Colombia’s government expanded religious tolerance in 1991, when it guaranteed its citizens freedom of religion. Christian evangelicals and Mormons have made inroads here in recent years. On San Andrés, Old Providence and Santa Catalina Islands, the Baptist church has always been the predominant religion. Because of the large wave of Middle Eastern immigration the late-19th to early-20th century, Colombia also has quite a significant Muslim population, especially along the Caribbean coast. Maicao’s mosque is the second largest in Latin America. Colombia also has small populations of Jews, Baha’is and Buddhists, who all have houses of worship in the country.

 

Even though other religions have grown in Colombia in recent years, they still pale in comparison to the overwhelming reach of Catholicism. According to most polls on the subject, approximately 90 percent of Colombians identify themselves as Catholic.

 

But signs also point to a decline in Catholic faith. A 2001 poll conducted by one of Colombia’s premier newspapers indicated that as many as 60 percent of Colombians did not actively practice their faith, and more recently, Colombia overturned a long-standing law prohibiting some forms of abortion despite opposition from the Catholic Church.

 

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Colombia: M√°laga Holidays and Fiestas, Camping in Colombia, Living, Volunteering and Working in Colombia, When to Go, Laundry, Colombia's Social Issues, Ecotourism in Colombia, Safety, When to Go and Health in Colombia.








27 Sep 2011



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