Religions of Ecuador, Churches, Culture

Ecuador supports religious freedom, enabling all to worship and attend any religious institutes that they choose to support. People in Ecuador are primarily Roman Catholic, a religion that was introduced into the country when the Spanish took over. About 94% of the Ecuadorian population can be considered Roman Catholic, although many also belong to other churches like the Evangelists and Adventists. In the late 1980's there was approximately one priest shepherding over 5 320 Catholic followers, so there was definitely a large following to be looked after.

When Catholicism was first introduced into Ecuador, it was one of the only colonial institutions to contribute to the society by building schools and providing care for the poor. It was also one of the wealthiest institutions, with many people donating money and because of the organization purchasing assets. In the 1960’s the Catholic bishops again took it upon themselves to aid in social changes like literacy campaigns and the distribution of land for the deprived Indian people. With this also came conflict between the church and the government on the social and political side of things.

It was realized that, although majority of the population considers themselves Catholic, many of them don’t practice their religion in any way. Many of the Indian tribes, like the Sierra Indians, took on Catholic rites and mixed them with their own traditional, indigenous beliefs, creating a form of worship called Folk Catholicism. Others feel strongly about the outside influence that came with the Spanish invasion and today have gone back to their native belief-systems as a way to re-identify themselves as indigenous people living in Ecuador. One of these native beliefs or ‘religions’ is the ‘Pacha mama’, which means Mother Earth and views co-existing with nature as being vital.

Due to the relatively low Roman Catholic influence on the poorer communities, many other missionaries from the Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal found it much easier to find followers. In fact in the 1980s it was estimated that as many as 40% of the people in the Chimborazo Province had changed religious affiliation and were now following these two religions. Today the situation has undoubtedly changed somewhat, but there is still freedom of worship and many different religions in Ecuador.

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