JAMAICA — Religions are big business here.
They make up a big chunk of the economy, and some of the country’s most celebrated religious groups include the Jamaican Baha’i faith, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormon church and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
The Jamaican constitution has been amended to allow them to officially claim citizenship, and they are a key pillar of the Jamaicans governing coalition.
But it’s also the world’s biggest exporter of religions, and their numbers are growing rapidly, in part because of a rising number of migrants from around the world.
A growing number of Jamaicans are saying they want to change their religion and become atheists.
The country has no formal religious institutions, and its constitution says no one can hold public office based on religion.
Jamaicans have long been tolerant, welcoming many newcomers.
But some say the country has been slow to welcome converts.
Religion and politics in Jamaica Many Jamaicans don’t feel like they belong in any one religion, nor do they see themselves as members of a single faith, according to a 2014 poll by the Jamaaland Centre for Religion Research and Policy, a non-profit organization.
The poll found that 81 percent of Jamaican respondents said they are either not sure or not sure of their religion, with 15 percent not sure and 6 percent not certain.
The majority of respondents, though, said they don’t identify with any particular religious group.
They said they see their religion as part of the fabric of Jamaicans culture and community, not as a separate religion.
Jamsheda Kavita, who was born in Jamaica but is now living in Australia, says her family is one of those who do not identify as Muslim.
She grew up in Jamaica with her parents, but has moved to Australia since the 1990s, she says.
“There’s no real place for me in Jamaican society,” Kavitas father says.
She is still in touch with her Jamaican parents, and she is proud of them.
“I grew up knowing that Jamaicans were not one religion,” she says, “so I was very proud to tell my family that I was not a Muslim.”
Some Jamaicans feel they can’t escape their religion.
According to the 2014 poll, nearly half of Jamais who did not identify with a specific religious group felt they were not welcome in their community, and nearly 40 percent said they felt unsafe.
In some parts of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, where the Muslim population is increasing at a faster rate than other groups, the growing number is pushing many Jamaicans to leave their traditional communities.
The BBC visited the Jamaica Centre for Research and Information (JCRC) last year, where Dr. Mihir Shah, one of the nation’s leading Muslim scholars, spoke about how his community was losing members to other faiths.
Many Jamaican Muslims feel like there is no place for them in their communities, says Shah.
They feel like if they say they are Jamaican, that’s just going to be accepted.
They are just not welcome.
In his book, The Changing Face of Jamaica, Shah describes how in the late 1990s he met a Jamaican man who felt uncomfortable coming to a mosque.
“He was a Muslim and his wife was a Hindu, but they weren’t really religious and they didn’t talk to each other,” says Shah, who has been researching religion in Jamaica for many years.
“So I asked him, what do you think about us Muslims?
And he said, we are not really a Muslim, we’re not religious.”
Shah says his study shows that a growing number Jamaicans want to abandon traditional Jamaican culture.
“It’s a very complex issue,” he says.
According in the 2015 poll, a growing majority of Jamaians said they were either not certain or not clear about their religion when asked about their beliefs, with only 15 percent of respondents saying they were sure.
The JCRC survey also found that many Jamaican adults were not sure what their religion meant to them, with 38 percent of adults unsure.
Shah says he hopes his work can be used to educate the country on the issue.
“If people can understand what their faith means to them and why they should accept that, they will be more open to it,” Shah says.
In 2014, the Jamaicand National Council of Churches (JNCC) launched the Jamaicoom, a new online platform to promote Jamaican faith, which will include a list of available mosques, religious colleges and Islamic schools, Shah says, as well as a calendar of events, events and places to go to meet new people and learn about their faith.
Many of these events have already taken place, including a week-long religious festival, held in April.
But there are still many challenges ahead.
“In order to reach a majority of the population, there will need to be more outreach