Youth make up 40% of Jamaicans shunning all religious denominations
Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
At minutes after 10 o'clock on Sunday morning when churchgoers were immersed in the spirit inside their house of worship, a group of young men were actively engaged in a game of football near Kingston's waterfront as the sea breeze cooled the late-morning sun.
Church wasn't their cup of tea. Shirtless, barefooted and in shorts, playing scrimmage was their Sunday morning ritual. Not dressed up sitting in the pews "with a bunch a wicked people and a listen to a hypocrite a tell me 'bout God", 20-year-old Roshane said.
The young man numbered among the 227,941 youth between the ages of 10 and 29 who were recorded in the Population and Housing Census 2011 as having no religious affiliation. In fact, youth in that age group accounted for approximately 40 per cent of the just over half a million Jamaicans who said they had nothing to do with religion.
"Di said (same) people me see go church, a di said (same) people me see a carry out wickedness. Me used to go church, but me stop from me pree wah a gwaan," Roshane told The Gleaner.
"We haffi enjoy we youthful days. When we get older, we pree dem tings deh," 18-year-old Omar chipped in.
"We believe inna we God and read we Bible every day. We nuh affi go church fi do that," noted 17-year-old Jamar.
Roshane added: "Me can tell you, me read my Bible more than nuff a dem who me see a go church."
Further up the street, however, youth were descending in droves at the Wildman Street Pentecostal Tabernacle in Kingston to join fellow members inside the packed assembly hall.
The census report noted that persons in the 10 to 29 age group accounted for 36 per cent of the approximate two million persons who claimed religious ties.
Of the 21 religious affiliations listed, the figures showed that youth were flocking more to the Seventh-day Adventist and Pentecostal denominations than any other. Seventh-day Adventists claimed 123,957 in that age group, while Pentecostals had 115,542.
"The people here are real and you understand God more because of how they explain it and the example they set," said 17-year-old Stacey-Ann Bailey of Wildman Street Pentab, who said she was coming from a United church.
Eighteen-year-old Matthew Royal said, "Aside from the rich presence of God that we feel, I like the vibrant worship that a typical Pentecostal church offers. The people are warm and friendly and there are a lot of programmes and activities that are geared towards persons in my age group that keep my interest."
The scene at the St Andrew Parish Church appeared to paint a picture of the declining numbers in the Anglican Church. In contrast to Wildman Street Pentab, at 11:30 a.m., a mere handful of older persons with a dot of youth sat attentively during service. As noted by the census, youth in the 10 to 29 age group were numbered at 20,675 in the Anglican Church, an approximate 18 per cent decline from the 2001 figures of 25,118.
In a population of 2,697,983, the census reported that 2,050,771 persons were associated with a religion, 572,008 had no religious affiliation and 60,326 did not respond.