The country has an area of 49,998 square miles and a population of 5.7 million. More than 80 percent of the population belongs to Christian groups. Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion. According to the latest census conducted in 2005 by the governmental Nicaraguan Institute of Statistics and Census, 58.5 percent of the population is Catholic and 21.6 percent is evangelical Protestant, including Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, Mennonite, and Baptist. The most recent 2009 public opinion survey from the private polling firm M&R Consultants indicates that 54.4 percent of the population is Catholic and 27.7 percent evangelical. Both Catholic and evangelical leaders view these results as inaccurate. Based on other sources, the Catholic Church believes that approximately 70 percent of the population is Catholic, and some evangelical groups believe approximately 35 percent of the population is evangelical. The Assemblies of God claims to be the largest evangelical denomination, with more than 860 churches and 200,000 baptized members. Small religious groups include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Moravian Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baha'is, the Church of Scientology, and Buddhists.
Non-Christian communities are few and small. Although the Jewish community numbers only 40 permanent members (including expatriates), visitors often join them for holy days. Although small in number, the Jewish community is heterogenous and includes members from a variety of countries of origin. It does not have an ordained rabbi or synagogue, primarily due to lack of resources.
There are approximately 500 Muslims, mostly Sunnis, who are resident aliens or naturalized citizens from the Occupied Territories, Libya, and Iran. The Islamic Cultural Center in Managua serves as the primary prayer center for Muslims in the city. The Muslim community is building a mosque in Managua; Granada, Masaya, and León have smaller prayer centers in homes.
Immigrant groups include Palestinian Christians, whose ancestors came to Central America in the early 1900s, and Chinese, many of whom arrived as Christians or converted to Christianity. Some immigrant communities, including South Koreans, formed their own Protestant churches. In 2008, the first native-born Buddhist nun was announced; a Buddhist Center has existed in the country since 2000.
There are no longer any pre-Columbian religions known to be actively practiced in the country. Some Moravian churches along the Atlantic Coast continued to allow indigenous Amerindian spiritual expression, often through music. The Catholic Church frequently incorporated syncretic elements.
Moravian, Episcopalian, Catholic, and Baptist communities are the main traditional religious groups associated with the Atlantic coast, while Catholic and evangelical Protestant churches dominate the Pacific and central regions where the majority of the population resides. There is a strong correlation between ethnicity and religion along the Atlantic Coast, which has a higher concentration of indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations. Amerindians and Creoles, for example, are more likely to belong to the Moravian or Episcopalian Churches; however, both churches reported losing some adherents to the growing evangelical movement. Some evangelical churches enjoy a strong presence in the remote towns of the central south Atlantic region. Smaller evangelical churches increased in rural areas of the interior and areas where the Catholic Church was not present.
|Population||Population (2009 est.) 5,891,199|
|Religious Demographics||Roman Catholic 58.5%, Evangelical 21.6%, Maravian (Protestant) 1.6%, Jehovah's Witness 0.9%, other 1.7%, none 15.7% (2005 census)|
|Ethnic Groups||Ethnic Groups mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 69%, white 17%, black 9%, Amerindian 5%|
|Languages||Languages Spanish 97.5% (official), Miskito 1.7%, other 0.8% (1995 census)|