Photo Caption: Anglican Church, Clarks Town, Trelawny, Jamaica.
Jamaica has the distinction of having the most churches per square mile than any other nation in the world.
But what is awesome about our island nation, is the remarkable religious tolerance practiced here. No one is discriminated against because of their religion. All Christian denominations and all of the world’s religions are represented on the island, including our very own Rastafari religion that was created here.
The levels of religious harmony makes Jamaica the world’s ideal faith tourism destination, as it is a true democratic society, where freedom of thought and religion is practiced and where Christians feel freer to speak and to practice their faith more than any other place on Earth.. Faith-based tourism contributes between US$50 billion and US$100 billion annually to the global economy and Jamaica is the perfect destination for conferences, conventions and retreats.
Jamaica’s Tourism Ministry is in the process of formulating a policy to deliberately target the faith-based tourism market, as a means of significantly increasing visitor arrivals and further developing the tourism sector.
An overwhelming number of the island’s educational institutions, including primary and high schools, colleges and universities were founded by religious organizations and the majority of early childhood institutions were founded and operated by churches. Of Jamaica’s ten public holidays, four are religious celebrated in praise and worship services.
One of the oldest religions, Judaism, is practiced in Jamaica. Jews arrived in Jamaica in the early 1500s and erected synagogues in Kingston, Port Royal, Spanish Town and Montego Bay, all but one of which were either destroyed by hurricane or earthquakes, ravaged by fires, or simply abandoned. Today there is only one active synagogue in Jamaica, The Shaare Shalom Synagogue, in Kingston.
More than 3000 Jamaicans identify themselves as Buddhists, while approximately 5,000 members of the population identify themselves as Muslims. There are 11 mosques across the island with the Islamic Council of Jamaica, the centre of the Muslim faith on the island located in Jamaica’s capital Kingston.
For Hindus, The Sanatan Dharma Mandir Temple, which was built in the mid-1970s, is the only Indian temple recognised by the Jamaican Government. It remains a lively place of worship where all major festivals are celebrated and regular services held on Sundays.
Rastafari is the most popular faith in Jamaica, after Christianity, with an estimated 25,000 followers. This indigenous movement began in the 1930s and is synonymous with Jamaica and Reggae music. The first Church of Haile Selassie was recognized by the Jamaican Government in 2013 but there are several Rastafari groups across the island, the most notable ones being the Nyabhingi Order, Bobo Shanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Whatever your religious beliefs, Jamaica is all right with that. It is the perfect place to practice your religion in peace.
Photo Caption: Elder Binghi Job adds wood to the fire which is continuously burnt at the edge of the pathway leading to the Rastafari Nyabinghi Tabernacle at retirement in Hanover, Jamaica.
Photo Credit: Claudia Gardener, Photojournalist