What are the Religions in Samoa?
Samoa is a religious country, particularly devoted to Christianity. Christianity was introduced to the islands around 190 years ago and has been going strong ever since. Christianity influences cultural norms, such as observing Sunday as a day of worship and rest, while the church plays a part in social interactions, provides guidance and redistributes goods and services to those in need. As a visitor, being part of a church service or observing Christian holidays with the locals is a good way to immerse in the local culture. Find out more about religions in Samoa in the guide below.
A (Quick) History of the Religions in Samoa
In pre-missionary times, Samoans, like many other Polynesians, observed a complex polytheistic religion that incorporated a mix of human and non-human gods of the sun, earth, heavens, sea and more. However, there were not many outward signs of their religious beliefs as an organised institution. A noteworthy Samoan legend is that of a prophecy told by the war goddess Nafanua, who foretold that a new religion would take root on the islands. Many believe that this is why Samoans were so willing to accept Christianity once the missionaries arrived.
In 1828, Methodist missionary Peter Turner was based in Tonga and visited Samoa briefly, passing on his message to many Samoans, but he never established a mission there. In 1830, however, London Mission Society missionaries John Williams and Charles Barff arrived in Savai’i where Christianity was quickly accepted. Catholicism was brought to the islands in 1845 by French Catholic missionaries and paved the way for the European rivalry between Catholics and Protestants that extended throughout the South Pacific.
The Mormon Church was a latecomer, introduced by two missionaries sent by an imperialist politician in Hawaii, Walter M Gibson, who believed he could use religion to annex Samoa to the Kingdom of Hawaii. In 1888, the missionaries settled in American Samoa with local wives, setting up a mission in Pago Pago, and a mission in Samoa was established shortly after.
Learn more about the history of Samoa in A Brief History of Samoa.
Christianity in Samoa
The religion most represented in Samoa is Christianity with around 97% of the population identifying with one of Samoa’s Christian denominations. Religion is sacred in Samoa, where Sundays are widely considered a day of worship and rest.
Where to Experience Christianity in Samoa as a Tourist
Visitors to Samoa are welcome to join Sunday worship in churches across the islands. Churches are found in most villages, while some smaller villages share a church. For the visitor, going to a Samoan church is an experience of listening to the powerful acapella harmonies and seeing the locals dress in their finest attire.
Note that anyone going to a church in Samoa needs to dress respectfully, covering their knees and shoulders. Think your Sunday best! See more tips in the 10 Best Churches in Samoa to Experience as a Visitor.
Many public holidays and celebrations surround Christianity in Samoa, from White Sunday and Mother and Father’s Days, which you can learn more about in our guide to Public Holidays in Samoa (& Other Important Dates). Furthermore, the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter are also great times to be in Samoa to witness celebrations of these holidays. Learn more in The Guide to Easter in Samoa and How to Spend Christmas in Samoa.
Christian Denominations Represented in Samoa
These are the main Christianity denominations found in Samoa in order of popularity:
- Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa or EFKS) – 29%
- Roman Catholic – 18.8%
- The Church of the Latter-Day Saints – 16.6%
- Methodist – 12.4%
- Assembly of God – 6.8%
- Seventh Day Adventist – 4.4%
- Worship Centre – 2.8%.
Around 2.3% of the population belongs to other Protestant denominations, while 3.6% belongs to other Christian denominations.
Other Religions in Samoa
Around 2.9% of the population of Samoa belongs to a religion other than Christianity, according to a 2016 census. 0.2% of the population doesn’t belong to any religion.
The Baha’i Faith is a non-Christian religion represented in Samoa by a minute percentage of the population identifying with this faith. Despite this, Samoa is home to the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, one of only eight Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world. It receives thousands of visitors from across the world and has a visitor information centre to learn more about the building and the Baha’i Faith. Learn more about visiting Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in the 10 Best Churches in Samoa to Experience as a Visitor.
Also in Samoa is a tiny community of Muslims observing the religion of Islam. There is one mosque in Samoa, located in the village of Vaiusu.
Frequently Asked Questions About Religion in Samoa
Finally, check out the frequently asked questions about the religions in Samoa and see if your question is answered!
What is the Main Religion in Samoa?
An overwhelming majority of the population of Samoa practices the religion of Christianity, with the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa or “EKFS”) being the most popular Christian denomination.
What Gods Do Samoans Believe in?
Pre-missionary times, Samoans believed in many human and non-human gods of the earth, sea, heavens and more. Tagaloa was considered the supreme god. Today, most Samoans believe in the one Christian “God“.
Why Did Samoans Convert to Christianity?
There are several factors attributed to Samoa’s conversion to Christianity. Some argue that the creation story of Christianity was similar to that of the traditional Samoan creation story. Another theory is that in Samoan legend, the war goddess Nafanua foretold that a new religion would take root on the islands (and the wonderous possessions that the palagi – white people – brought to Samoa was evidence that the palagi’s god was more generous than those of the island people). Of course, there are more theories that have been explored.
Are Samoan People Catholic?
Around 18.8% of the population of people in Samoa are Catholic.
Are Samoans Muslims?
The overwhelming majority of Samoans are Christian, while a tiny percentage (less than 1%) are Muslim. Currently, there is one mosque in Samoa.
What Percentage of Samoa is Mormon?
Around 16.6% of the population in Samoa are Mormon, in other words, part of The Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
More About Religion in Samoa
That’s it for our guide to the religions in Samoa. To learn more about the culture of Samoa, check out our other guides:
- A Traveller’s Guide to the Samoa Culture
- Who are the People of Samoa?
- Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions
Finally, get the full picture of planning a trip to Samoa using The Best Samoa Travel Guide.