Religion in Tonga
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Religion in Tonga
Saione, the church of the King, a Free Wesleyan Church in Kolomotu?a, Tonga
Catholic Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua in Nuku'alofa

The overwhelming majority of people in Tonga consider themselves Christians, which is dominated by Methodists.

According to the 2011 census, 36% of the population are members of the Free Wesleyan Church, including the king and the majority of the royal family. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the next largest group (18%), followed by the Roman Catholic Church (15%), and three further Methodist denominations, the Free Church of Tonga (12%), the Church of Tonga (7%), and the Tokaikolo Christian Church (2.5%). Tonga also has members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Anglicans, adherents of the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism and Muslims, all of which constitutes less than 3% of the population.[1]

Foreign missionaries are active in the country and operate freely. The Constitution of Tonga provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respected this right in practice. The US government found that there were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.[2]


Tongans are ardent church goers. Church service usually follows a call and response structure. Singing in the church is often done a cappella. Although a church attends primarily to the spiritual needs of the population, it also functions as the primary social hub.

Sunday in Tonga is celebrated as a strict sabbath, enshrined so in the constitution, and despite some voices to the opposite, the Sunday ban is not likely to be abolished soon. No trade is allowed on Sunday, except essential services, after special approval by the minister of police. Those that break the law risk a fine or imprisonment.[]

Along with others from Oceania, some Tongan Christians have attempted to develop their own unique theology which addresses the contextual questions offered by people of the Pacific. This includes the coconut theology of the Methodist Sione 'Amanaki Havea or the incarnational theology of the Roman Catholic Bishop Patelesio Finau.[3]

LDS Tonga Temple

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims it has over 60,600 members which is about 57% of the population of Tonga. According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Tonga has a higher per-capita number of Latter-day Saints than any other country in the world.[4] However, according to 2011 census, only 18.01% of Tongans belong to LDS Church and Tongans belonging to mainstream Christian denominations represent majority of the population.[5]

Other religions

Hinduism and Buddhism have begun to gain traction, growing from 0.2% to 0.4% of the population(or 175 to 383 combined) in five years.[2] Meanwhile, Islam has shrunk to 24 people, from its peak of 47.

The Bahá'í Faith in Tonga started after being set as a goal to introduce the religion in 1953,[6] and Bahá'ís arrived in 1954.[7] With conversions and pioneers the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1958.[8] Less than forty years later, in 1996, the Bahá'ís of Tonga established their paramount Bahá'í school in the form of the Ocean of Light International School.[9] Around 2004 there were 29 local spiritual assemblies[7] and about 5% of the national population were members of the Bahá'í Faith though the Tonga Broadcasting Commission maintained a policy that does not allow discussions by members of the Bahá'í Faith of its founder, Bahá'u'lláh on its radio broadcasts.[10]

Census figures

Religions in Tonga by Census
Religion 1986[11] 1996[11] 2006[12] 2011[13]
Christianity 90,175 94,489 99,255 101,272
Bahá'í Faith 0 595 686 777
Hinduism 0 0 104 200
Buddhism 0 0 71 183
Islam 0 35 47 24
Other 2874 830 202 877
Refuse to answer 0 10 1,698 275
None 0 61 28 288
Total 94,049 96,020 101,991 103,043
Christian groups in Tonga by Census
Religion 1986[11] 1996[11] 2006[12] 2011[13]
Free Wesleyan Church 40,371 39,703 38,052 36,592
Roman Catholic 14,921 15,309 15,922 15,441
Latter-day Saints 11,270 13,225 17,109 18,554
Free Church of Tonga 10,413 11,226 11,599 11,863
Church of Tonga 6,882 7,016 7,295 6,935
Tokaikolo Christian Church 3,047 2,919 2,597 2,533
Anglican Church 563 720 765 728
Seventh-day Adventist Church 2,143 2,381 2,282 2,331
Assembly of God 565 1,082 2,350 2,602
Constitutional Church of Tonga 0 845 941 961
Gospel Church 0 63 243 236
Jehovah's Witnesses 0 0 0 462
Other Pentecostal Denomination 0 0 0 1,034
Total 90,175 94,489 99,255 101,272

See also

External links


  1. ^ Tonga 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Volume 2: Analytical Report (Report). 2. Secretariat of the Pacific Community, New Caledonia. January 2014. p. 33. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ a b International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Tonga. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Forman, Charles W. (July 2005). "Finding Our Own Voice: The Reinterpreting of Christianity by Oceanian Theologians" (PDF). International Bulletin of Missionary Research. 29 (3): 115-122.
  4. ^ ^ Jump up to: a b Church News: Country information: Tonga,, accessed 2013-12-15
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hassall, Graham (1992), "Pacific Baha'i Communities 1950-1964", in H. Rubinstein, Donald, Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference, University of Guam Press & Micronesian Area Research Center, Guam, pp. 73-95
  7. ^ a b Tuitahi, Sione; Bolouri, Sohrab (2004-01-28), "Tongan Baha'is parade to the palace", Bahá'í World News Service
  8. ^ Hassall, Graham (1996), "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific Issues and Prospects", Bahá'í Studies Review, 6, pp. 1-10
  9. ^ Bahá'í International Community (2006-07-17), "Ocean of Light School celebrates 10th anniversary", Bahá'í World News Service
  10. ^ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2006-09-15). "International Religious Freedom Report - Tonga". United States State Department. Retrieved .
  11. ^ a b c d CENSUS96 Admin, Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/15/2011, pages xxii, 14
  12. ^ a b [1], Tonga Department of Statistics
  13. ^ a b Census Report 2011 Vol.1 rev., Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/07/2013, page 39

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