On a visit to this Indian Ocean island in 1989, the pope noted Réunion's reputation for racial and religious harmony. The landscape, dotted with Hindu and Buddhist temples, mosques, and Catholic and Protestant churches, matches this reputation for hybridity. As a French overseas department, Réunion is classified as mostly Catholic, and religion is considered mainly a private matter, as in the French tradition. However, a 2008 survey confirmed growing religious syncretism, especially among younger and poorer Réunionnese. Métissage (mixing) through religion and marriage first started with colonization, which officially began in 1665. African and Malagasy slaves and, later, Indian contract laborers and Chinese “coolies” were obliged to become Catholic. They were thus creolized, or welded together—their own ancestors’ religious beliefs and practices forced into the ...

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