A Peek into the Religion in New Zealand

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New Zealand is a host of distinct cultures. The Maori tribe was the first to discover and inhabit the region. Hence, Maori religion was dominant until the arrival of the Europeans in the eighteenth century. The Europeans took some effort to introduce and popularize Christianity, which is currently the most common religion in New Zealand.

However, the volume of people affiliated to Christianity has been diminishing from the 1990s. The escalation in migration to the country led to the surge of Non-Christian groups. After Christianity, the largest number of New Zealanders adhere to the beliefs of Hinduism.

According to the 2018 census, close to half of New Zealand’s population do not have any religion. Here's a deeper look into the religion in New Zealand:

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Christianity and Maori Religion in New Zealand

Christian missionaries started appearing in New Zealand from the early nineteenth century. The culture of the Maori people encouraged the belief in multiple deities and hence they welcomed Christianity. Karakia, the Maori prayer was rewritten with Christian influence and likewise many elements of Christianity blended well with the traditional Maori customs. Even today, Maori functions are considered to be executed well if they begin and end with the modern version of karakia.

Samuel Marsden, an English priest of Australia’s Church of England befriended the Maori folk who used to visit Australia. He established a close connection with Ruatara, a chief of the Ngapuhi tribe in New Zealand. In 1814, Marsden played the key role in starting the first Christian missionary service in New Zealand called the Christian Mission Society.

Since the conversion rate of the Maoris was too slow, the operation of the missionaries was handed over to a Royal Navy officer turned Christian missionary called Henry Williams. He shifted the focus of the missionary from teaching useful arts and agriculture to spiritual teaching. Meanwhile the mission members developed their expertise in the Maori language. The extensive work of the missionary lasted throughout the 1820s, until finally Maori baptisms started happening from 1830.

Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian are the largest among the Christian groups in the country. Although Christianity is still the most common religion in New Zealand, there has been a steady decline over the past years. In the 2006 census, forty nine percent of the population identified with Christianity. It saw a huge dip and reduced to forty three percent according to the 2013 census. In the 2018 census, only thirty five percent identified themselves with Christianity.

Youngsters in New Zealand are unlikely to identify with any religion while the older population has no trouble in identifying with Christianity. Reports suggest that the increase in migration and the fast paced nature of modern day lifestyle must have also negatively impacted the engagement of people with the church.

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Hindu Religion in New Zealand

The fastest growing religion in New Zealand, Hinduism constitutes almost three percent of the country’s total population. After the Immigration Act of 1987 came into force, migration to New Zealand steadily increased, especially from Asian countries like India. Currently the number of Hindus in the country has exceeded one hundred and twenty three thousand.

Above three thousand Europeans and almost two thousand Pacific Islanders follow Hinduism. All the major cities in New Zealand including the most populous ones like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have Hindu temples. A prevalent religion in New Zealand now, Hinduism is followed by almost nine hundred Maoris. Hence Maori customs are similar to that of Hindus and a lot of the Maori words are identical to Indian words.

Hindus, along with Jews have attained the highest education levels in the country. The affinity of New Zealanders towards Hindus was further proven during a survey conducted in 2019 by Victoria University Wellington when above twenty-eight percent of them stated as having complete trust in Hindus.

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Muslim Religion in New Zealand

Out of the total population of five million people in New Zealand, just a little above one percent represent Islam. It is considered to be the most rapidly growing religion among the Maori people. From being only ninety nine in 1991, the number of Muslims of Maori ethnicity grew to a stunning seven hundred and eight in 2001, within a span of just ten years. But after surpassing thousand in 2006, the number has stopped exponentially growing. Even after 2018, just thirty six more individuals of the Maoris adopted Islam.

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Buddhist Religion in New Zealand

In the 2019 survey conducted by the Victoria University in Wellington, thirty five percent of New Zealanders stated as considering Buddhists trustworthy, which makes Buddhists the most trusted religious group in the whole country. Currently the total Buddhist population in New Zealand slightly exceeds one percent. Fo Guang Shan Temple in Auckland is the largest among the numerous Buddhist temples in New Zealand.

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Jewish Religion in New Zealand  

Jews started settling in New Zealand from the beginning of the nineteenth century. After the arrival of Anglo-Jewish traders in the 1830s, Jews started playing important roles in multiple areas of New Zealand life. Even after the government implemented an extremely restrictive policy on immigration during the end of the nineteenth century and mid-twentieth century, the community kept contributing towards the business, medicine and politics.

Below a quarter of one percent of the total population follow the Judaism religion in New Zealand, which comes close to seven thousand five hundred.

No religion

The number of people in New Zealand with no religion has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2001, the percentage of people who stated to have no religious affiliation was close to thirty percent. According to the 2018 census, it has grown to approaching fifty, meaning close to half of the people in New Zealand don't believe in any religion.

Less than seven percent of the population has not made any declaration about their religion in New Zealand.

This post was published by Vishnu Kesavan

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