Republic of Suriname
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Located on the northeast coast of South American (between Guyana, French Guiana and Brazil) Suriname was formerly known as Dutch Guiana. A small country, comprising an area of 163,000 sq km (63,000 sq miles), Suriname was early populated by Arawak and Carib Indians. Christopher Columbus sighted the coastline in 1498. The Spanish staked claim to the area, the Dutch formed a few small settlements and the British built the first sugar plantations using Indian labor. In 1667 two colonial powers made a land swap: the Dutch gave the British New Amsterdam (New York) and the British gave Suriname to the Dutch. Employing their skill as dyke builders, the Dutch reclaimed a narrow coastal strip for sugar plantations to replace marshes and mangrove swamps. African slaves were imported for labor by 1680. After the European abolition of slavery laborers were imported from India, China and Java, thus the present population of about 440,000 is uniquely diverse. Since 1954 Suriname has been a self-governing, equal partner in the Tripartite Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a republic with a single legislative body known as the National Assembly. Ethnic and economic conflict in the late twentieth century resulted in military coups, suspension of foreign aid and record inflation.
The world’s most densely forested country, 92% of Suriname’s land area is yet covered with dense forest, much of it untouched as timber is not among the nation’s exports. Agriculturally Suriname produces shrimp, fish, rice, bananas and coconuts. The major national export is bauxite; 65% of the export and 15% of the gross domestic product is bauxite. Reliant upon the Netherlands for economic aid, substantial progress in this country is unlikely without major economic reforms.
Because of the diverse populations imported for agricultural laborers in previous centuries the religious make-up of Suriname is equally diverse. Indigenous religious activity is in the minority at 5%. Christianity is split between 25% Protestant groups and about 23% Roman Catholicism. About 20% of the population is Muslim while approximately 27% are Hindu.
Suriname was introduced to the Stone-Campbell Movement (before 1989) through World Radio broadcasts and the World Bible School in the English language. As a result of these two ministries of the a cappella Churches of Christ a few students and a few radio listeners traveled to neighboring Guyana to receive baptism from believers there. In 1989 a team from the World Bible School, including Don Starks, went to Suriname to seek out additional students. At one point as many as 400 Dutch language correspondence courses were underway. Sometime thereafter a group of Christian workers, including Boyd and Kevin Williams, conducted a campaign in Suriname resulting in the teaching of about one hundred people. Some of these accepted Christianity and formed a congregation at Paramaribo. Thomas Almathie became a pioneer leader in this work. Early in 1991 American Don Fike spent three months in Suriname helping to strengthen the church there. Numerous campaigns were conducted. Additional American missionaries who have served in Suriname have been David Atnip and Wayne Pruette. There are known to be at least four Church of Christ congregations in Suriname, in Paramaribo, Ventanilla, and Lima.
International Churches of Christ have the Internationale Gemeente van Christus te Suriname in Paramaribo.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, January 8, 2014
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