The Haitian People - Religion
Roughly half the population practices voodoo [ Vodou ]. The country, which shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, has an area of 10,714 square miles and a population of 9 million. A U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) census released in 2006 (based on 2003 data) lists the following religious demographics: 54.7 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 15.4 percent Baptist, 7.9 percent Pentecostal, and 3 percent Seventh-day Adventist. Episcopalians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Muslims, and practitioners of Vodou (voodoo) are also present. An undetermined percentage of the population practices both Vodou and Christianity.
Religion plays a prominent role in society, and citizens freely expressed their religious beliefs. Ecumenical organizations were active. Interfaith cooperation was perhaps most effective in the National Federation of Private Schools. While society generally was tolerant of the variety of religious practices, Christian attitudes toward Vodou ranged from acceptance as part of the culture to rejection as incompatible with Christianity. These differing perspectives led to isolated instances of conflict.
Historically, Roman Catholicism was the official religion. While this official status ended with the enactment of the 1987 Constitution, neither the Government nor the Holy See renounced the 1860 concordat, which serves as the basis for relations between the Catholic Church (and its religious orders) and the state. In many respects, Catholicism retains its traditional primacy among the country's religious groups. Official and quasi-official functions are held in Catholic churches and cathedrals, such as "Te Deum" masses for Independence Day, Flag Day, and Founders Day; however, the Government recognizes the increasing role of Protestant churches. For example, Episcopal and other Protestant clergy were invited to participate when the religious sector was asked to play an advisory role in politics.
Organized missionary groups and missionaries affiliated with independent churches operated hospitals, orphanages, schools, and clinics. Foreign missionaries enter as regular tourists and submit paperwork similar to that submitted by domestic religious groups to the Bureau of Religious Affairs. Delays in issuing residence permits were attributed to bureaucratic delay.
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