Freedom of religion in Myanmar | religious demography

Religious demography

 This article incorporates public domain material from the "International Religious Freedom Report 2007".

The popular form of Buddhism in Myanmar is Theravada Buddhism with a mixture of astrology, numerology, fortune-telling, and veneration of indigenous pre-Buddhist era deities called "nats". Buddhist monks, including novices, number more than 400,000 and depend on the laity for their material needs, including clothing and daily donations of food. A small population of Buddhist nuns also exist. The principal minority religious groups include Christian groups (mostly Baptists (~70%) and Roman Catholics (~25%), and a small number of Anglicans, and an array of other Protestant denominations), Muslims (mostly Sunni), Hindus, and practitioners of traditional Chinese and indigenous religions. According to official statistics, almost 90 percent of the population practice Buddhism, 6 percent practice Christianity, and 4 percent practice Islam. The US government claims that the numbers might be distorted in favor of Buddhists, however, this cannot be verified. There is also a tiny Jewish community in Yangon, of about 25 adherents and a synagogue, but there is no resident rabbi to conduct services.

The country is ethnically diverse, with some correlation between ethnicity and religion. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion among the majority Burman ethnic group and among the Shan, Arakanese, and Mon ethnic minorities of the eastern, western, and southern regions. Christianity is the dominant religion among the Chin ethnic group of the Western region and has some adherents amongst the Kachin and Naga ethnic groups, whom continue to practice traditional indigenous religions. Christianity is also practised widely among the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups of the southern and eastern regions, although many Karen and Karenni are Buddhist. In addition, some ethnic Indians are Christian. Hinduism is practised chiefly by Burmese of Indian origin, who are concentrated in major cities and in the south central region. Islam is practised widely in Rakhine State, where it is the dominant religion of the Rohingya minority, and in Rangoon, Ayeyarwady, Magway, and Mandalay Divisions. Some Burmans, Indians, and ethnic Bengalis also practice Islam. Chinese ethnic minorities generally practice traditional Chinese religions. Traditional indigenous beliefs are practised widely among smaller ethnic groups in the highland regions. Practices drawn from those indigenous beliefs persist widely in popular Buddhist rituals, especially in rural areas.