Religion in Ecuador


Religion in Ecuador

Religion in Ecuadoris an expression of the different cultural heritages in the Ecuadorian culture including the Spanish colonisation, the Native Amerindian and the Afro-Ecuadorian.

Demographics

Approximately 85% percent of Ecuadoreans are Roman Catholic, with 35% of Catholics actively practicing. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90252.htm International Religious Freedom Report 2007] ] In the rural parts of Ecuador, indigenous beliefs and Catholicism are sometimes syncretized. Most festivals and annual parades are based on religious celebrations (catholic), many incorporating a mixture of rites and icons.

The Evangelical Missionary Union estimates that there are around one million Protestants (7.3% of the population) in Ecuador. Other religions are present in small numbers: Orthodox Catholics, Mormons, Buddhism and Islam. Although the Jewish community in the country is small, the contribution of its members to the development of Ecuador has been immense.

Catholicism

Since the Spanish colonization, Ecuador became a catholic country. The Catholic Church had and still has an important place in the Ecuadorian government and society. After the Constitution of 1869, the official religion became catholisism [ [http://www.dlh.lahora.com.ec/paginas/historia/historia9c.htm/ Ecuador and the Catholic Church] ] and only Catholics could obtain citizenship. In 1899, the liberal government of Alfaro made a new constitution which respected all religions and guaranteed freedom of religious choice. The public education became free of religious influence. Nevertheless, private catholic schools still existed. Today, the number of Catholics is decreasing and new religions are taking it's place. Monsignor Antonio José Cardinal González Zumárraga is the emeritus Archbishop of Quito. He is in charge of the Ecuadorian Catholic Church. The Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador is Giacomo Guido Ottonello [ [http://75.125.60.12/~iglesia4//index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=14&Itemid=29/ Ecuadorian Catholic Church] ]

Judaism

The "Jewish Community of Ecuador" (Comunidad Judía del Ecuador) has it's seat in Quito and has aprox. 600 members. Nevertheless, this number is declining because young people leave the country towards the United States of America or Israel [ [http://www.cje-ec.com/inter.asp?s=2&id=e/ Ecuadorian Jewish Community] ] . The Community has a Jewish Center with a synagoge, a country club and a cemetery. It supports the "Albert Einstein School", where Jewish history, religion and hebrew classes are offered. Since 2004, there's also a Chabad House in Quito [ [http://www.jabad.org.ec/texto1.php?id_submenu1=139&id_menu=36/ Beit Chabad House of Ecuador] ] .There are small communities in Riobamba, Cuenca and Ambato. The "Comunidad de Culto Israelita" reunites the Jews of Guayaquil. This community works independently from the "Jewish Community of Ecuador" [ [http://www.congresojudio.org.ar/comunidades.asp?id=ecuador/ Congreso Judío] ] . The city has also Synagoge of a Messianic Judaism community [ [http://mishkanyeshua.com/ Mishkán Yeshúa Messianic Judaism Synagoge] ] .

Islam

The "Islam Community of Ecuador" (Comunidad Islámica del Ecuador) is of Sunni denomination and has aprox. 300 members in Quito [ [http://www.hoy.com.ec/NoticiaNue.asp?row_id=226108/ Newspaper articles about the Islam Comunity of Ecuador] ] . It runs the Mosque Assalam [ [http://www.centroislamico.org.ec/ Islam Comunity of Ecuador] ] in the city of Quito.

The "Asociación Islmáica Cultural Khaled Ibn al Walidi" reunites the Arab Muslims in the country and has it's seat in Quito.

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith, while being registered with the government, has small numbers in the country. [cite web |title=Ecuador: International Religious Freedom Report 2007 |url=http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90252.htm |publisher=United States Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor |date=2007-09-14 |accessdate=2008-06-08] The Bahá'i radio in Otavalo that was started on October 12, 1977, was the first Bahá'i radio station in the world. [cite web | author = National Bahá'i Community of Ecuador | title = The Bahá'í Radio of Ecuador | url = http://www.ec.bahai.org/main.cfm?doc=102&comm=17&lang=1&action=normal | accessdate = 2008-06-08] The National Bahá'í governing body of Ecuador is based in Quito and Guayaquil. [ [http://www.ec.bahai.org/main.cfm?action=contact&doc=102&comm=17&lang=1 Baha'i Comunity of Ecuador] ]

History

In the colony

The Roman Catholic Church assumed a pivotal role in Ecuador virtually at the onset of the Spanish conquest. Catholicism was a central part of Hispanic culture, defining the ethos and worldview of the time. Through the Office of the Inquisition, the church examined the "purity" of possible officeholders. The church was virtually the only colonial institution dealing with education or the care of the needy. It amassed great wealth through donations, dowries, and outright purchases. Virtually every segment of the organization--the hierarchy, individual clerics, and religious orders--owned some form of assets.Kluck, Patricia. "Religion". [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/ectoc.html A Country Study: Ecuador] (Dennis M. Hanratty, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (1989). "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."]

After the independence

The liberals' ascendancy in 1905 brought a series of drastic limitations to the Roman Catholic Church's privileges. The state admitted representatives of other religions into the country, established a system of public education, and seized most of the church's rural properties. In addition, legislation formally abolished tithes (although many hacienda owners continued to collect them). The 1945 constitution (and the Constitution of 1979) firmly established freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.

Changes in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s

Beginning in the 1960s, the country's Catholic bishops became increasingly active in supporting social change. Church leaders organized literacy campaigns among the Indians, distributed the institution's remaining lands, assisted peasants in acquiring land titles, and helped communities form cooperatives. In the 1970s and 1980s, the bishops espoused a centrist position on social and political issues. The episcopate contended that the unjust organization of Ecuadorian society caused many to live in misery. The bishops also claimed that the economic development of the 1970s and early 1980s had merely widened the gap between rich and poor. At the same time, however, Catholics were warned against employing Marxian analyses of society or endorsing violence or class conflict.

Church support for social reform

Church support for social reform occasionally brought it into conflict with government authorities. In 1976, for example, police arrested Riobamba bishop Leonidas Proaño Villalba--the episcopate's most outspoken critic of Ecuadorian society and politics--and sixteen other Latin American bishops who were attending a church conference in Chimborazo Province. After accusing the prelates of interfering in Ecuador's internal politics and discussing subversive subjects, the minister of interior released Proaño and expelled the foreign bishops from the country. Some Catholics formed groups to support conservative causes. The Committee of Young Christians for Christian Civilization, for example, advocated scuttling the "confiscatory and anti-Christian" agrarian reform laws.

Internal organization of the Catholic Church in Ecuador

In 1986 the Roman Catholic Church was organized into three archdioceses, ten dioceses, one territorial prelature, seven apostolic vicariates, and one apostolic prefecture. The church had only 1,505 priests to minister to a Catholic population of slightly more than 8 million, a ratio of 1 priest for every 5,320 Catholics.

Although approximately 94 percent of Ecuadorians were at least nominally Roman Catholic at the time, most either did not practice their religion or pursued a syncretistic version. Most Sierra Indians, for example, followed a type of folk Catholicism in which doctrinal orthodoxy played only a small part. Indigenous beliefs combined with elements of Catholic worship. Much of community life focused on elaborate fiestas that marked both public and family events. Although the precise configuration of fiestas varied from community to community, in general public fiestas involved an individual in a series of increasingly demanding and expensive sponsorships (cargos) of specific religious celebrations. By the time individuals had completed all the expected cargos, they were recognized community leaders.

Religious freedom

The separation of state and religion is since 1986 guaranteed.

The Ecuadorian Constitution of 1998 includes two articles providing for freedom of worship:

* Art. 23: States, among others that "all people are legally born free and equal and that they will not be discriminated on the basis of religion". It guarantees also the freedom of religion. "Freedom of religion is guaranteed. Every individual has the right to freely profess his/her religion and to disseminate it individually or collectively. All religious faiths and churches are equally free before the law." The right to declare or not about ones religious affiliation is also guaranteed.
* Art. 81: Prohibits publicity that encourages violence, racism, sexism, religious or political intolerance.

Conversions

The Roman Catholic Church's relatively weak presence in the countryside and in squatter settlements, coupled with the nominal, syncretistic practice of most Catholics, created a fertile ground for Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal missionary activity. Although multidenominational groups such as the Gospel Missionary Union (GMU) had been active in Ecuador since the beginning of the twentieth century, significant levels of conversion did not occur until the late 1960s. By the late 1970s, the GMU reported that it had converted 20,000 Sierra Indians in Chimborazo Province alone. The Christian and Missionary Alliance indicated that conversions among Indians in Otavalo climbed from 28 in 1969 to 900 in 1979. By the mid-1980s, an estimated 50,000 Ecuadorians had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Other significant forces in the Protestant camp included World Vision, an evangelical development group based in California, and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). The Texas-based SIL dispatched linguists to remote areas of Ecuador to study and codify tribal languages. The eventual goal of such efforts was to translate the Bible.

The phenomenal pace of conversion--some observers estimated that evangelicals and Pentecostals totaled 40 percent of the population in Chimborazo Province in the late 1980s--had an impact on social relations in rural areas. Change in religious affiliation was a major rupture with an individual's past traditions and social ties, effectively removing him or her from participation in fiestas--a major focus of much of community life. Families and extended families found the break with the rest of the community easier in the company of fellow converts. Protestantism replaced the patterns of mutual reciprocity characteristic of peasant social relations with a network of sharing and support among fellow believers. This support system extended to migrants; converts who left for the city or the coast sought out their coreligionists for assistance in finding lodging and employment even as Catholics looked to their compadres.

References


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