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Ethnic_Religious_Diversity_CAM-Holland

Ethnic_Religious_Diversity_CAM-Holland - 2005 Annual...

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2005 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion November 4-6 in Rochester, New York S9: Religious Conversion in Latin America Conveners: Henri Gooren , Utrecht University, [email protected] and Virginia Garrard-Burnett , University of Texas at Austin, [email protected] Paper 5: “Ethnic and Religious Diversity in Central America: An Historical Perspective” Clifton L. Holland , Evangelical University of the Americas, [email protected] Ethnic and Religious Diversity in Central America: An Historical Perspective by Clifton L. Holland Director of the Institute for Socio-Religious Studies (IDES) Evangelical University of the Americas (UNELA) San José, Costa Rica (last modified on August 6, 2005) Abstract This paper describes the current situation of ethnic and religious diversity in Central America based on the author’s extensive fieldwork during the past 33 years in the region, in addition to published and unpublished documents (including public opinion polls) and, more recently, on Internet resources. We will describe the historical development of the ethnolinguistical and religious groups that inhabit the region and examine their place in modern society. The complexity of cultures and religions in the region began with the arrival of Spanish colonists and missionaries in the 16 th century, and developed through a long period of adaptation and change, assimilation, rebellion and resistance to European colonization and domination. This complicated social process continued with the immigration of new ethnic and religious groups after Independence from Spain in 1821. For the next 120 years the Roman Catholic Church maintained its dominant role in Central American society, but its hegemony was slowly eroded by the growth and development of religious minorities, especially of the Protestant variety during the first half of the 20 th century. The well- documented shift in religious affiliation since 1960, away from the Roman Catholic Church and toward Evangelical groups, has led Dr. Charles Denton (president of the CID-Gallup research group in Costa Rica) to project that by the year 2025 more than 50% of all Central Americans will be Protestants if the current trend continues. In addition to Protestant growth in the region, there has also been a significant increase in those who identify with Marginal Christian groups (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Light of the World Church, etc.), non-Christian groups (more than 100 are known to exist in the region) and with the category “No Religion” (more than 10% of the population in some countries).
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