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Ecuador - Religion

The Roman Catholic Church estimates 85 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic, with 15 percent of the population actively practicing. As during the previous reporting period, the Catholic Church estimates that attendance at Mass rose slightly due to increased proselytizing. Some groups, particularly indigenous persons who live in the highlands, follow a syncretic form of Catholicism that combines indigenous beliefs with orthodox Catholic doctrine. In the Amazon jungle region, Catholic practices often are combined with elements of shamanism.

Estimates of the number of non-Catholic Christians start at one million. Southern Baptists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses, and Pentecostals find converts among persons who practice syncretic religions, particularly among indigenous people in the highland provinces of Chimborazo, Bolivar, Cotopaxi, Imbabura, and Pichincha, and in other groups marginalized by society. Evangelical groups include the Assemblies of God, in urban areas, and the Church of the Word of God, which is growing rapidly in indigenous areas.

Rural indigenous areas tend to be either overwhelmingly Catholic or overwhelmingly Protestant. Protestant organizations were usually divided between predominantly indigenous organizations, such as the Council of Evangelical Indigenous People and Organizations, and mestizo organizations. Many mestizos in the Guayaquil area are Protestant. In large cities, Protestant megachurches with more than 10,000 members continued to experience substantial growth. Hundreds of evangelical churches exist, many of which are not affiliated with a particular denomination. Some multidenominational Christian groups, such as the Gospel Missionary Union, now called Avant Ministries, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Hoy Cristo Jess Bendice (Today Jesus Christ Blesses), have been active for decades.

Many registered religious groups, including Anglicans, Baha'is, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox believers, Presbyterians, Unification Church members, and followers of Inti, the traditional Inca sun god, have few members.

In 1937 the government entered into an official legal agreement with the Holy See called the Modus Vivendi, which grants the Catholic Church privileges such as official passports for clergy and state funding of churches and schools. Non-Catholic religious groups criticized the use of taxpayer money to fund exclusively Catholic projects because comparable funding was not provided for their organizations.

Some religious groups have chosen not to comply with the 2008 presidential decree requiring NGOs to register with the government. The government states that the purpose of the decree is to ensure fiscal responsibility with regard to government funding. A few religious groups believe the government could use the registration process to exert excessive control, while others find the requirement to list members to be excessive and a violation of a citizen's right to practice freely.

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