The Colours of Religion
Freedom to worship
One aspect of Jamaica's rich culture that holds great significance, is its inclusivity and tolerance of religious diversity. Jamaica is host to a kaleidoscope of religious expressions highly influenced by our cultural heritage. Though the majority of the island’s population is staunchly Christian, all religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Rastafarianism peacefully co-exist with others.
With over 1,600 churches, Jamaica holds the Guinness Book of World records for the most churches per square mile! A drive through the island features a fascinating exhibition of places of worship, constructed in Jamaica Georgian and Classic Gothic architectural styles that are uniquely Jamaican. Exploring the diverse religious landscape of the island is a rewarding experience where you will be welcomed with the warmth and hospitality of Jamaican people.
Christianity, Spirituality and Judaism
Religion and faith are intrinsically intertwined in Jamaican culture, and our island is home to multiple denominations; Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Moravian and Methodist are just a few to be found here. Jamaica's strong Christian heritage is evident in its many churches and the deep faith of its people. Attend a worship service at the historic Kingston Parish Church to experience the harmonious blend of faith and community, or the St. Andrew Parish Church, an architectural gem in Half-Way-Tree, where the vibrant congregation welcomes visitors.
While Jamaica’s Christian roots hail from Europe, several other forms of Christianity are also practiced locally that are strongly marked by African influences namely Kumina, Pocomania, Zion and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Although not recognized as formal religions, spiritualism like Revivalism, Kumina and Obeah are prevalent belief systems deeply rooted in African traditions. These often combine elements of Christianity with African spiritual beliefs like communication with the spirit world and spiritual healing. While Obeah is often associated with negative connotations, it holds a significant place in Jamaican cultural heritage.
For a unique religious experience, venture to Bull Bay in St. Thomas to visit the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This community is home to one of the largest populations of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in Jamaica. Discover the distinctive Ethiopian-style church building adorned with vibrant colors, intricate paintings, and traditional icons. Attend a worship service to witness the melodic chants, rituals, and deep spirituality of this ancient Christian tradition.
Next to Christianity, one of the oldest religions practiced in Jamaica is Judaism. The arrival of Jews on the island dates as far back as 1530. Today, Jamaica is home to a small but vibrant Jewish community. Explore the Jewish heritage of the island by visiting the Shaare Shalom Synagogue in Kingston, the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Caribbean. Attend a Shabbat service to experience the rich traditions and warm hospitality of the Jamaican Jewish community and engage with community members to learn about their history, customs, and contributions to Jamaican society. Immerse yourself in the beauty of Jewish rituals and the unique blend of Jamaican and Jewish traditions that make this community truly special.
Rastafarianism and other belief systems
The Rastafarian faith, a religious and political movement born in Jamaica with roots in Africa, is considered a way of life, a social movement, and a mindset. Head to the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay to learn about Rastafarian beliefs and practices. This immersive experience offers a unique insight into the Rastafarian faith and way of life. Explore the village, nestled in a lush natural setting and engage in enlightening discussions about Rastafari philosophy and spirituality.
In addition to the various belief systems mentioned earlier, Jamaica is also home to Hindu Temples in Kingston. Visitors are welcome to witness Hindu religious ceremonies, festivals, and cultural events, which often involve colorful processions, intricate rituals, and devotional music. Mosques may also be found in Kingston, Spanish Town, and Montego Bay where visitors can attend religious events, such as Friday prayers or Eid celebrations. Jamaica also has a small, but vibrant Bahá'í community that emphasizes the unity of all religions. The Bahá'í House of Worship, located in the picturesque area of St. Ann Parish, stands as a symbol of unity and peace. Known as the Lotus Temple, this architectural masterpiece welcomes people of all faiths to gather, meditate, and pray together.
Not too far down the road on Duke Street is the Taoist Kuan-Kung Temple. Although the temple is not used for religious worship today, it is an important link to Jamaican Chinese cultural past and many still visit during important Chinese cultural celebrations. To this day the Kuan Kung (Guan Gong/Tam Gung), a Taoist deity still sits majestically on the altar maintained by the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA) who is currently working to restore it to its former glory.
Jamaicans also practise Buddhism on the island with some 3000 locals identifying themselves as Buddhist. There are two Dhammadipa Vihara monasteries located at 1 Duquesnay Avenue off Red Hill Road and 4 Upper Waterloo Close in Kingston.
West African Moors sold to the slave trade came to the island taking along with them their Islam faith. Today, roughly 5,000 Jamaicans identify with the Islamic faith. There are eleven mosques across the island in Kingston, and Spanish Town, as well as in the smaller towns of Albany and Port Maria in St. Mary, Newell in St. Elizabeth, Mandeville in Manchester and Three Miles River in Westmoreland. In 2011 the first Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque was built in Jamaica, in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. The Islamic Council of Jamaica is the centre of the Muslim faith on our island, located at 24 Camp Road in Kingston. Meetings are held there every 2 months for Muslims across the country.
For Hindus The Sanatan Dharma Mandir Temple is the only Indian temple recognised by the Jamaican Government. The first Mandir in Jamaica, it was built in mid 1970s by Pandit Munaeshwar Maragh at 114B Hagley Park Road. Today it stands as a vibrant place of worship with regular services held on Sundays at 10am and all major festivals celebrated.
Following Christianity, the Rastafarian faith is the most popular in Jamaica with an estimated 25,000 followers to date. This indigenous movement began in the 1930s and since then has become synonymous with Jamaica and Reggae music in particular. The first Church of Haile Selassie was recognized by the Jamaican Government in 2013 however there are several Rastafarian groups across the island, the most popular ones being the Nyabhingi Order, Bobo Shanti and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Jamaica is home to diversity, with religion being no exception. The dynamics of religion in Jamaica is perhaps one of the most profound examples of the island’s motto, ‘Out of many, One people’. Our people enjoy the freedom of expressing their religious faith and belong to major religions as well as several sects from around the world, some not mentioned here. There is truly something for everyone in Jamaica. What better way to become one with your spirituality, than in the natural sanctuary of Jamaica.