|Belize is a predominantly Christian society. Roman Catholicism is accepted by about half of the population, and Protestantism by about a quarter. Much of the remaining population is comprised of Taoists, Buddhists and more recently introduced religions like Jainists, Islam, and Bahá'í. Hinduism Asian immigrants; Islam is also common among the Middle-eastern immigrants and has also gained a following among Creoles and Garifuna. Religious freedom is guaranteed and churches dot the streets of Belize almost as frequently as places of business; Catholics frequently visit the country for special gospel revivals.
Jehovah's Witnesses have also enjoyed significant increase in recent years and now make up around 2% of the population.
The Roman Catholic Church in Belize is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome. Bishops in Belize are members of the Antilles Episcopal Conference. There are over 200,000 Catholics in Belize, about three quarters of the total population. The country comes under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan. The nunciature to Belize is combined with the nunciature to El Salvador. The current apostolic nuncio to Belize is Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto.
In 1857, three thousand East Indians migrated from Jamaica to Belize, 382 of whom were originally born in India. However, they came here as free East Indians, due to the expiration of their contracts in Jamaica. The sizeable community of East Indians is traditionally Hindu their ancestors came to Belize as indentured servants in the 1880s to work on sugar plantations. Some of these East Indians were also Muslims.
The Indian Diaspora in Belize consists only of PIOs (People of Indian Origin) as there are no restrictions here to the acquisition of local citizenship. Most of them had gone there in the 1950s, when Belize was still a British colony. They subsequently invited some of their relatives, as well as some of their employees, to join them from India. The community is comprised almost entirely of Sindhis and so there are few differences among them. They are mostly retail traders and are well accepted. They have little interest in local politics, but their economic strength assures them an influential position in Belize.
The PIOs maintain close and regular contact with India through frequent trips to visit friends and relatives back home. Some of these visits are connected with their quest for Indian brides for their children. As in all other countries of Indian settlement, Indian music and Hindi films are popular here and have been useful in nurturing friendly relations with the local people.
In addition to the community described above, there is a fairly large group of persons who trace their origin to India. These persons live in villages scattered all over Belize. Like the indentured Indian who founded the Indian community in the Caribbean, the ancestors of those persons had reached Belize in the 19th century as cane cutters. As they were a small group, they intermarried with the local people and lost their language and original religion. However, they are still identifiable through their physiognomy and are known as 'Hindus'. They live in reasonably compact rural communities and number between 10 to 15 thousand, which is more than 5% of the population of Belize.
The statistics for Islam in Belize estimate a total Muslim population of 2,794, representing 1 percent of the total population. The Muslim community is led by the Islamic Mission of Belize (IMB) headquartered in Belize City.
The IMB was founded over forty years ago as the first organised group of Muslims in Belize. In 1978 the IMB was formally recognised by the government of Belize and was officially registered as a distinct religious organisation. The IMB is currently led by Imam Kaleem El-Amin as Amir or Chairman of the Managing Committee. As the only recognised Islamic organisation in Belize, the IMB's Islamic centre has a prayer hall and a primary school. The Muslim Community Primary School was recognised by the government in 1978 and offers Islamic as well as elementary level academic courses to Muslim and non-Muslim children. Since 1991, the school has expanded to grade 8 and now offers Islamic and academic courses. The present enrollment is more than 360 full-time students and the administrative staff consists of a Board of Trustees, the General Manager (the Imam), a principal and 15 teachers. The educational system of Belize is unique in that it is a partnership between the government and the religious communities whereby government is responsible for funding teachers’ salaries and approving the academic curriculum and the various religious communities are responsible for management, physical infrastructure, staffing and religious curriculum.
Through its Rural Development Project committee, the IMB is the sponsoring development of the Jannahville community in central Belize. The project aims to build an Islamic community complete with organic farming, halal meat, eco-tourism and a Muslim secondary school as well as eventually an Islamic University on some 350 acres of land leased from the government of Belize since 1987.