What Religion is Fiji?

Fiji is a diverse country located in the South Pacific Ocean, with a population of around 900,000 people. The main religions practiced in Fiji are Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and traditional Fijian beliefs.

Religious affiliations play an important role in Fijian culture and daily life. This article will provide an overview of the major religions in Fiji, their history, demographics, beliefs and practices.

What are the Main Religions in Fiji?

The primary religions in Fiji are:

  • Christianity (64.5% of population)
  • Hinduism (27.9% of population)
  • Islam (6.3% of population)
  • Sikhism (0.3% of population)
  • Traditional Fijian beliefs

Christianity in Fiji

Christianity is the dominant religion in Fiji, with 64.5% of the population identifying as Christian according to the 2007 census. The main Christian denominations are:

  • Methodism – About 34.6% of Fijians belong to the Methodist denomination. Methodism was introduced to Fiji in the 19th century by European missionaries.
  • Roman Catholicism – Around 9.1% of the population is Catholic. Catholicism first arrived in Fiji with early French missionaries in the 1840s.
  • Assembly of God – Approximately 4.7% of Fijians are members of the Assembly of God, a Pentecostal denomination.
  • Seventh Day Adventist – Around 2.9% of the population is Seventh Day Adventist. This Protestant denomination was introduced by American missionaries in the early 1900s.

Other smaller Christian groups include Anglicans, Baptists and Presbyterians. Christianity became dominant largely through the work of European missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hinduism in Fiji

Hinduism is the second largest religion, making up 27.9% of Fiji’s population according to the 2007 census. The first Indian indentured laborers brought Hinduism to Fiji in the late 1800s during the British colonial era. Today, Hindus remain an important part of Fiji’s religious and cultural landscape.

Key aspects of Hinduism in Fiji:

  • Adherents are mostly ethnic Fijians of Indian descent.
  • Mainly followers of Vaishnavite Hinduism.
  • Prominent Hindu organizations include the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha Fiji.
  • Active Hindu temples across Fiji.
  • Celebration of major Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Thaipusam.

Islam in Fiji

Islam is followed by 6.3% of Fiji’s population based on 2007 census figures. Islam first came to Fiji in the late 19th century through Muslim indentured laborers from South Asia. Key facts about Islam in Fiji:

  • Most Fijian Muslims are Sunni.
  • There are around 60 mosques across Fiji.
  • Adolf Brewster, a European convert, helped establish Islam in Fiji.
  • Muslim League of Fiji is the main representative organization.
  • Major Muslim holidays like Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and the Prophet’s Birthday are observed.

Sikhism in Fiji

According to the 2007 census, 0.3% of Fiji’s population identify as Sikhs. Sikhism was brought by Punjabi migrants from India who came to Fiji under the indentured labor system in the 1900s. Today, Sikhs play an active role in Fijian society:

  • There are 8 Sikh temples (Gurdwaras) in Fiji.
  • Main Gurdwara is the Khalsa Darbar in Suva.
  • Active Sikh organizations like the Sikh Education Society.
  • Sikhs participate in community life through the Fiji Girmit Council.
  • Sikhs celebrate major holidays like Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday.

Traditional Fijian Beliefs

Many indigenous Fijians follow traditional belief systems and practices unique to their culture. Though official statistics are lacking, some key aspects include:

  • Traditional Fijian religion is animistic, with a reverence for ancestors and nature spirits.
  • Indigenous religious figures include Ratu (chiefs), Bete (priests), and Bati (warriors).
  • Myths and oral traditions important to identity and community.
  • Practices like tabu (sacred prohibitions) continue today.
  • Blending with Christianity in many cases.

When Did Christianity Become the Dominant Religion in Fiji?

Christianity overtook traditional Fijian beliefs and practices to become the dominant religion in Fiji during the 19th century. There are a few key factors that led to this shift:

  • Arrival of European Christian missionaries – Starting in the 1830s, European Methodist, Catholic and Protestant missionaries arrived in Fiji to spread Christianity. They set up schools, churches and printing presses.
  • Conversion of high-ranking Chiefs – The conversion of important Fijian chiefs in the 1840s and 1850s paved the way for mass conversion. Chief Seru Epenisa Cakobau’s baptism in 1854 was a seminal moment.
  • Establishment of Christian institutions – The missionaries founded elite Christian schools that promoted Western education and religious indoctrination. The printing of Bibles in Fijian also helped disseminate Christianity.
  • Suppression of traditional practices – Traditional Fijian spiritual practices like shamanism and ancestor worship were suppressed and discouraged under missionary influence.
  • Political change – As Fiji became a British colony in 1874, Christianity became associated with modernity and progress while traditional beliefs were seen as backward.

By the 1890s, Christianity was firmly established as the most widely-followed religion. The conversion process accelerated under colonial rule in the early 20th century.

What Percentage of Fiji is Hindu?

According to the most recent 2007 census, 27.9% of Fiji’s population identify as Hindu. This makes Hinduism the second largest religious group after Christianity in Fiji. The strong Hindu presence dates back to the arrival of Indian indentured laborers brought by the British to work on sugar plantations in the late 19th century.

Key facts about the Hindu population of Fiji:

  • There are approximately 261,097 Hindus in Fiji as of 2007.
  • The majority of Fijian Hindus are ethnic Fijians of Indian descent.
  • Hinduism has remained an integral part of Indo-Fijian identity.
  • The Hindu proportion of the population has decreased slightly from 29.6% in 1996 to 27.9% in 2007.
  • Hindus make up the majority on islands like Rabi and Vanua Levu.
  • Main Hindu organizations like Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha Fiji advocate for Hindu interests.
  • Active Hindu temples across Fiji organize religious and cultural events.
  • Major Hindu festivals like Diwali are celebrated as national holidays.

Hindus constitute over a quarter of Fiji’s diverse religious landscape and play a vibrant role in national culture and politics.

What Percentage of Fiji is Christian?

According to the 2007 census, which is the most recent national population data available, 64.5% of the total population of Fiji adheres to Christianity, making it the largest religious group.

Key statistics about Christians in Fiji:

  • There are approximately 584,265 Christians out of a total population of 837,271.
  • The 2007 census reported Methodists as the largest Christian subgroup with 34.6% of the population.
  • Other major Christian denominations include Catholicism (9.1%) and Assembly of God (4.7%).
  • Smaller Christian groups include Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists and Presbyterians.
  • Christianity is dominant across different ethnic groups – about 56.8% of indigenous Fijians, 18.9% of Indo-Fijians and 66.3% of other ethnicities identify as Christian.
  • Different regions of Fiji have higher percentages of certain denominations, like Catholicism in the Northern division.
  • There has been a slight decline from 1996 when 66.6% of the populace identified as Christian.

So while the Christian proportion has decreased somewhat, Christianity still represents nearly two-thirds of the total population in Fiji as of 2007. It remains the religion of the majority across the islands.

What Percentage of Fiji is Muslim?

According to the 2007 Fiji Census, which provides the most recent statistics on religious affiliation, 6.3% of the total population of Fiji is Muslim. This equates to approximately 52,949 Muslims out of a total population of 837,271 in 2007.

Key details about the Muslim population of Fiji:

  • Islam is the 3rd largest religion in the country after Christianity and Hinduism.
  • The 6.3% Muslim proportion reflects a slight increase from 5.7% in 1996.
  • The majority of Muslims in Fiji are Sunni, with a small Shia minority.
  • Most Fijian Muslims are ethnic Fijians of Indian descent, whose ancestors came as indentured laborers from South Asia.
  • Significant concentrations of Muslims are found in Suva and towns along the northeast and northwest coasts of Viti Levu.
  • There are around 60 mosques across Fiji to serve the Muslim community.
  • Major Muslim organizations include the Fiji Muslim League and the Ahmadiyya Movement.
  • Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are national public holidays in Fiji.

While Islam is a demographic minority, Fijian Muslims have played an important role in shaping national culture and politics. Their proportion appears to be slowly increasing.

How Did Religion Spread Across the Fiji Islands?

There were three major phases in the spread of religion throughout the Fiji Islands:

Traditional Fijian Religion

  • The indigenous people of Fiji practiced an animistic traditional religion focused on ancestral spirits, shamanism and nature worship.
  • Religious rituals and tabus were overseen by chiefs, priests and shamans guided by oral traditions.
  • This traditional religion was spread across Fiji through the movement of tribes and settlers who brought their belief systems.

Introduction of Christianity

  • European Christian missionaries arrived from the 1830s and systematically spread Christianity to different islands and tribal groups.
  • Conversion focused first on coastal areas and then moved inland. The eastern islands converted first.
  • Missionary schools and printing presses helped proliferate Christian teachings in Fijian language.
  • Chiefs who converted played a key role in making their tribes adopt Christianity.

Arrival of Hinduism and Islam

  • Hinduism and Islam came to Fiji in the late 19th century, brought by indentured Indian laborers.
  • Indians were initially placed in cane farming settlements established by the British across different islands.
  • This enabled Hindu and Muslim presence to take root concurrently across Fiji.
  • Temples and mosques then arose to serve growing Indian religious communities.

So indigenous religion was followed by the missionary spread of Christianity and finally the transplantation of Hinduism and Islam by Indian laborers enabled religion to permeate across Fiji.

Did Christianity Have Social Benefits in Fiji?

The arrival and spread of Christianity in Fiji during the 19th century brought both positive social benefits as well as some negative consequences:

Social Benefits

  • Literacy – Missionaries taught reading and writing in Fijian, providing a widespread boost in education.
  • Unification – Christianity brought together disparate tribes and clans under a common faith and shared identity. This reduced conflict.
  • Education – Missionary schools educated islanders in both religious and secular subjects, facilitating upward mobility.
  • Healthcare – Early missionaries brought medical knowledge and provided rudimentary healthcare services lacking before.
  • Women’s welfare – Christianity discouraged practices like polygamy and female infanticide which had oppressed Fijian women.
  • Infrastructure – Mission stations became hubs of development, introducing new skills and technology. This kickstarted modernization.

Negative Effects

  • Cultural loss – Indigenous religion and customs were suppressed and abandoned, leading to a loss of heritage.
  • Dependency – Over-reliance on European missionaries undermined self-sufficiency of communities.
  • Psychological impact – The condemnation of traditional beliefs as ‘heathen’ took a psychological toll on Fijians.
  • Discipline – Punitive missionary schooling practices had a traumatizing effect on many students.
  • Social stratification – Missionary education created class divides between Christians and non-Christians.

So while Christianity initiated progress in many areas, it came at a steep cultural cost with lasting repercussions for Fijian society.

What Religions Were Present in Fiji Before Christianity?

Prior to the introduction and spread of Christianity starting in the 1800s, the religious landscape of Fiji was dominated by various traditional belief systems and practices:

  • Ancestor worship – Reverence and offerings to ancestral gods and spirits was very common. This connected Fijians to their lineage.
  • Totemism – Different clans and tribes had animal or plant totems symbolizing their ancestry and protecting their communities.
  • Shamanism – Shamans or bete served as healers, mediums and ritual specialists, invoking spirits.
  • Nature worship – Fijians worshipped gods associated with nature like forests, oceans, rainfall, agriculture etc. Offerings were made to gain favor.
  • Mana – The concept of a life essence or spiritual power in people, objects and places was central.
  • Tabu – The observance of prohibitions and rituals governed daily life and marked sacred spaces.
  • Mythology – Fijians had a rich oral tradition of myths explaining their origins, culture and spirituality.
  • Chiefly authority – Chiefs acted as religious figures, maintaining rituals and faith on behalf of the clan or tribe.
  • War gods – Priests invoked war gods like Degei to help warriors in battle through rituals of empowerment.

This multiplicity of locally-oriented faith practices and beliefs characterized traditional pre-Christian Fijian religion.

How Did Methodist Missionaries Convert Fijians?

Methodist missionaries were the most prolific and successful in converting indigenous Fijian communities to Christianity in the 19th century. Some key techniques they used were:

  • Preaching – Impassioned sermons and testimonies that spoke to Fijian beliefs and sensibilities.
  • Education – Providing religious instruction in missionary schools to instill Christian values.
  • Integration – Incorporating Fijian rituals like kava drinking into church services to ease the transition.
  • Translation – Producing Bibles, hymns and texts in Fijian language helped disseminate Christianity.
  • Respect for Chiefs – Securing the conversion of chiefs ensured the tribe would follow suit.
  • Reinterpretation – Framing Fijian gods as biblical prophets made Christianity more palatable.
  • Material goods – Distributing beads, cloth and utensils incentivized conversion.
  • Medical aid – Providing medicine and healthcare to win over communities.
  • Demonization – Portraying indigenous practices like shamanism as ‘devil worship’ to scare Fijians.
  • Destroying tabus – Boldly violating spiritual prohibitions to show dominance over traditional religion.
  • Performances – Putting on plays and musicals dramatizing biblical stories.

Using this carrot and stick approach, missionary tactics reshaped the spiritual landscape of Fiji within a few decades.

What Was Fijian Religion Like Before Christianity?

Prior to the introduction of Christianity in the early 19th century, the indigenous people of Fiji practiced a varied and vibrant form of religion that was deeply interwoven into their culture and daily lives. Some key features included:

Polytheism

  • Worship of multiple gods and spirits connected to ancestors, nature, war, fertility etc.
  • Gods had roles like providing bountiful harvests (Degei), success in battle (Ratumaibulu), and protection at sea (Dakuwaqa).

Animism

  • Belief that spirits inhabited places, objects and living things including animals and plants.
  • Reverence for ancestors and their spirits, who were honored through offerings and rituals.

Shamanism

  • Shamans or bete acted as religious specialists, entering trances to interact with spirits.
  • Bete officiated at births, deaths, harvests, wars using spells, chants and divination.

Oral Traditions

  • Mythology and legends were passed down over generations that preserved folk beliefs.
  • Stories explained the origins of the islands, gods and the Fijian race.

Chiefly Role

  • Chiefs were considered sacred and carried out priestly functions for their people.
  • Ruling chiefs determined tabus and guided the faith practices of their subjects.

Rituals and Tabu

  • Elaborate rituals related to births, deaths, harvests, war preparations.
  • Tabu prohibitions on behavior reinforced social order and marked sacred spaces.

This rich religious heritage reflected how intrinsic faith was to pre-Christian Fiji. It provided Fijians a holistic worldview.

What Was the Methodist Missionary Impact on Fiji?

The arrival of Methodist missionaries in Fiji starting in the 1835 had a profound and far-reaching impact on the islands:

  • Christianization – Methodists succeeded in converting the majority of Fijians, overtaking indigenous religion by the 1890s.
  • Education – Methodist schools provided academic and religious instruction, leading to widespread literacy.
  • Political influence – Close links developed between the church and British colonial administration.
  • Cultural change – Fijian customs like polygamy and ancestral worship were discouraged as ‘heathen’ practices.
  • Language – Methodists studied and codified the Fijian language and translated the Bible, prayer books and hymns.

Conclusion

In summary, Fiji has a rich and diverse religious history shaped by its unique ethnic makeup. Indigenous Fijian spirituality and oral traditions laid the foundation, which was then transformed by the influx of Christianity in the 19th century.

The arrival of Indian laborers imported Hinduism and Islam, adding new dimensions to the religious landscape. While Christianity is currently the majority faith, Hindu and Muslim minorities have played an integral role.

Religion continues to have a profound influence on Fijian national identity and culture. Looking ahead, the interaction and tolerance between different groups will be vital for Fiji’s future social harmony.

FAQs

What is the main religion in Fiji?

The main religion in Fiji is Christianity, followed by 64.5% of the total population as of the 2007 census. Within Christianity, the largest denomination are Methodists, making up 34.6% of Fijians.

When did Christianity come to Fiji?

Christianity first arrived in Fiji with the arrival of the Methodist missionary Reverend James Calvert in 1835. It started gaining converts through the work of missionaries in the 1840s and 1850s, eventually overtaking traditional Fijian religion by the 1890s.

Who brought Hinduism to Fiji?

Hinduism was brought to Fiji in the late 19th century by indentured laborers from India who were brought by the British to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era. These Indian migrants brought their Hindu faith with them.

What percentage of Fiji is Catholic?

According to the 2007 census, 9.1% of Fiji’s population identifies as Roman Catholic, making Catholicism the second largest Christian denomination after Methodism. Overall, Catholics comprise around 1/10 of the total populace.

Do Sikhs live in Fiji?

Yes, Sikhism has a small but historic presence in Fiji constituting 0.3% of the population as of 2007. Sikhs first came in the early 20th century under the Indian indentured labor system. There are 8 Sikh temples across Fiji catering to this community.

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