Religion in Tonga

Saione, the church of the King, a Free Wesleyan Church in Kolomotuʻa, Tonga

The king and the majority of the royal family are members of the Free Wesleyan Church (Methodist) which claims some 40,000 adherents in the country. There are four other Methodist denominations in the country. The Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints each have a strong presence in the country as well. Tonga also has members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Anglicans, adherents of the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism, Buddhism and Muslims.

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. As consequence people who go to a church of another denomination are absolutely not shunned.

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.

According to the official census in 1996, 41% of the population of Tonga belonged to the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, 16% to the Roman Catholic Church, 14% to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 12% to the Free Church of Tonga, 17% to other groups.[1] However, both Roman Catholics and Mormons state that the number of their adherents is higher than reported, and a 2006 survey conducted by the Free Wesleyan Church revealed its membership comprised only 35 percent of the population.[1] The Tokaikolo Church (a local offshoot of the Methodist Church), Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Anglicans are also present.[1] Other than Christian denominations the next largest religion is of the Baha'i Faith.[2] 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.[1] Meanwhile, Islam has shrunk to 24 people, from its peak of 47.

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.[3] 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.[4]

The Bahá'í Faith in Tonga started after being set as a goal to introduce the religion in 1953,[5] and Bahá'ís arrived in 1954.[6] With conversions and pioneers the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1958.[7] 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.[8] Around 2004 there were 29 local spiritual assemblies[6] 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.[9] Foreign missionaries are active in the country and operate freely.[1] The Constitution of Tonga provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice.[1] The US government found that there were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.[1]

LDS Tonga Temple
Catholic Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua in Nuku'alofa

Census figures

Affiliation 1996 census 2006 census 2011 census
Free Wesleyan Church 41.3% 37.3% 35.5%
Latter-day Saints 13.8% 16.8% 18.0 %
Roman Catholic 15.9% 15.6% 15.0%
Free Church of Tonga 11.7% 11.4% 11.5%

Religions in Tonga by Census

Religions in Tonga by Census
Year Total Christianity Bahá'í Faith Hinduism Buddhism Islam Other Refuse to answer (inc not stated) None
1986[10] 94049 90175 - - - - 2874 - -
1996[10] 96020 94489 595 - - 35 830 10 61
2006[11] 101991 99255 686 104 71 47 202 1698 28
2011[12] 103043 101272 777 200 183 24 877 275 288

Christian groups

Christian groups in Tonga by Census
Year Christians Total Free Wesleyan Church Roman Catholic Latter day Saints Free Church of Tonga Church of Tonga Tokaikolo Anglican Church Seventh-day Adventist Church Assembly of God Constitutional Church of Tonga Gospel Church Jehovah's Witnesses Other Pentecostal Denomination
1986[10] 90175 40371 14921 11270 10413 6882 3047 563 2143 565 - - - -
1996[10] 94489 39703 15309 13225 11226 7016 2919 720 2381 1082 845 63 --
2006[11] 99255 38052 15922 17109 11599 7295 2597 765 2282 2350 941 243 --
2011[12] 101272 36592 15441 18554 11863 6935 2533 728 2331 2602 961 236 462 1034

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 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.
  2. "Tonga Facts and Figures", Encarta, Online, Microsoft, 2008, retrieved 2008-09-15.
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b Church News: Country information: Tonga,, accessed 2013-12-15
  5. 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
  6. 1 2 Tuitahi, Sione; Bolouri, Sohrab (2004-01-28), "Tongan Baha'is parade to the palace", Bahá'í World News Service
  7. Hassall, Graham (1996), "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific Issues and Prospects", Bahá'í Studies Review, 6, pp. 1–10
  8. Bahá'í International Community (2006-07-17), "Ocean of Light School celebrates 10th anniversary", Bahá'í World News Service
  9. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2006-09-15). "International Religious Freedom Report - Tonga". United States State Department. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  10. 1 2 3 4 CENSUS96 Admin, Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/15/2011, pages xxii, 14
  11. 1 2 , Tonga Department of Statistics
  12. 1 2 Census Report 2011 Vol.1 rev., Tonga Department of Statistics, 11/07/2013, page 39
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