Venezuela is a South American country located along the Caribbean Sea. It has a diverse population of 31 million whose ancestry was influenced by the Spanish colonial era and European immigration that took place in the mid-20th century. Today, the major ethnic groups in the country are mestizos, whites, blacks, and natives. Just as colonialism and immigration affected the ethnicities present in the country, they also affected the religions practiced here. This article looks at the main religious beliefs of Venezuela.
Religious beliefs in Venezuela
As is common throughout Latin America, Catholicism is the most widely practiced religious belief system in the country. About 71% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic. This religion was introduced during the colonial era, but the Church did not acquire as much power of influence there as in neighboring countries. He did, however, contribute to the education system. Before the government of Hugo Chavez, the Catholic religion lost followers to the benefit of the Protestant religion. During Chavez’s rule, the government took control of Catholic schools and removed religious education from public schools. These two events resulted in a lower percentage of Catholic followers compared to other Latin American countries.
The second most common religious identity in Venezuela is Protestant Christianity. This denomination has a following of 17% of the population. The majority of these people are evangelicals who have converted from the Catholic religion. The Protestant religion has faced difficulties in the country due to political constraints. Before Chavez, Christian television and radio broadcasts were illegal. In 2005, however, the government suspended visas for missionaries after a famous evangelical commented on the assassination of Venezuela’s president.
Another 8% of the population identifies as being irreligious. This can be broken down into 6% agnostics and 2% atheists. Often, a country’s move towards secularization goes hand in hand with urbanization and an increase in the level of education, which seems to be the case in Venezuela. These percentages began to rise in the early 21st century as the nation began to modernize.
Santería has a smaller following of around 1% of people in Venezuela. This religion developed under Spanish rule in the Caribbean among West African descendants. It is believed to be a fusion of traditional African and Native American religions with Christianity, especially Catholicism.
Other minority religions practiced in the country include Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. Together they make up about 3% of the population. Islam is practiced by 95,000 people of Syrian and Lebanese origin. Buddhism is practiced by 52,000 people of mainly Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent. Judaism is practiced by approximately 13,000 people living mainly in Caracas.
Religious freedom in Venezuela
The Venezuelan Constitution protects the rights regarding the freedom of all religious practices as long as these practices do not interfere with public decency and order or do not infringe on the religious rights of others. Despite this, the country has experienced cases of religious persecution. Antisemitism was expressed on public and private media channels. Evangelicals report obstacles to registering their religion with the government. Additionally, Mormons were denied access to their place of worship because it was occupied by flood victims. In 2014, the US State Department failed to hold a discussion with the government on religious liberty issues.
Religious beliefs in Venezuela
|Rank||belief system||Share of Venezuelan population|
|1||Roman Catholic Christianity||71%|
|Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs||3%|