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, some 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.1 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.1 The Tokaikolo Church (a local offshoot of the Methodist Church), Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Anglicans are also present.1 Other than Christian denominations the next largest religion is of the Baha'i Faith.2 Islam, and Hinduism have small numbers of adherents.1
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims it has 60,680 members which is about 57% of the population of Tonga. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Tonga has a higher per-capita number of Latter-day Saints than any other country in the world.3 The LDS Church does not remove inactive members from its rolls, so this figure represents all those who were ever Mormon, or whose parents were Mormon, at any time of their lives.
The Bahá'í Faith in Tonga started after being set as a goal to introduce the religion in 1953,4 and Bahá'ís arrived in 1954.5 With conversions and pioneers the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1958.6 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.7 Around 2004 there were 29 local spiritual assemblies5 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.8 Foreign missionaries are active in the country and operate freely.1 The Constitution of Tonga provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.1 The US government found that there were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.1
|Year||Total||Christianity||Bahá'í Faith||Islam||Other||Refuse to answer (inc not stated)||None||Hinduism||Buddhism|
|Year||Christians Total||Free Wesleyan Church||Roman Catholic||Latter day Saints||Free Church of Tonga||Church of Tonga||Tokaikolo||Anglican Church||Seventh-day Adventist Church||Assembly of God||Constitutional Church of Tonga||Gospel Church||Jehovah's Witnesses||Other Pentecostal Denomination|
- 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.
- ^ Jump up to: a b Church News: Country information: Tonga, lds.org, accessed 2013-12-15
- 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.
- CENSUS96 Admin, Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/15/2011, pages xxii, 14
- Tonga 2006 Administrative And Basic Tables Vol1, Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/15/2011, page 48
- Census Report 2011 Vol.1 rev., Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/07/2013, page 39