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The Majority Religion of Panama

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Panama has no official religion. However, it was accounted that majority of Panamanians are identified as Roman Catholic. About 82 percent of the 3.2 million population of Panama are Catholic. Though the Panama Constitution regards Catholicism as the religion of the majority, still it is not recognized as the official Panama religion. Minority religious groups are as follows: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) about 16,000 members, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Episcopalians ranging from 5,000 to 9,000 members, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'i Faith and other Christians. Also, Jewish and Muslim communities have roughly 10,000 Panamanian members each. There are also indigenous religions, which include Embera, Wounaan, Bugle, Ngobe, Kuna, Bribri and Naso.

The Panamanian Jewish community is far the largest in the region (counting in Central America, the Caribbean and Colombia). Currently, there are three Jewish schools and three synagogues in the City of Panama. Also, out of the seven Baha'i Houses of Worship in the whole world, Panama maintains one in the heart of its city. It is settled in the high cliff overlooking the Panama Canal.

The Panama Constitution provides for the freedom of religion in Panama as long as the Christian morality and public order are respected. There is also a provision in the Constitution that Catholicism be taught to Panamanians in school. However, parents can have the option to exclude their children from this instruction of the majority religion in Panama.

Though there are generally a lot of considerations given to the Catholic religion, the Constitution has not prejudiced the minor religions of Panama. Religious associations in Panama have "juridical capacity" wherein they can buy property for sale as long as they are within the limits set by the law. Moreover, this allows religious organizations to apply for all tax benefits available for nonprofit organizations.

Also, a temporary 3-month missionary worker visa can be granted to a foreign religious worker once needed paperwork is submitted. This may include AIDS test and police certification of good conduct. And upon submission of additional documentation, a one-year extension can be granted. Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests and nuns are eligible for a special 5-year visa.

For Catholic Panamanians, baptism is the most significant religious rite. This symbolizes the entry of the newborn into the church community. Church attendance and observance of religious duties are part of the daily life of the Panamanians.

The belief in the majority religion of Panama is centered on God, the Devil, the saints and the Virgin. They believe that each one was born with destiny set by God. This destiny can be changed if one will fall into temptations by the Devil.

Usually, in Panamanian culture, children are being exposed early with the teachings of the church. And as they grow, they are given part in church liturgy and they are taking participation in activities such as communion, catechism classes and confession. Women Panamanians are more involved in church activities than men. Women are very important in the religion in Panama since they take an active part in the church affairs. Religious gatherings and observances have become social diversions for women as much as they are devotional activities.

While the majority religion is protected by Panama's Constitution, freedom is ensured for all of Panama's religions. Panama tourists have the unique opportunity to see a country's ability to honor its majority religion without infringing on the rights of the minority religions.

The country has much more to offer than the average traveler may realize. Mountains, rainforests, beaches, and islands make for a diverse environment that caters to a wide range of hobbies, sports interests and pastimes. Indeed, one is never lost for things to do with so many Panama activities

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