Kiribati (officially pronounced Kiribas) is a presidential republic, which gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979 and joined the United Nations as a full member in 1999. The majority of the population live on the largest island, Tarawa.

According to its 2020 census, approximately 98% of the population is Christian – the largest denomination represented by the Catholic Church (59% of the population). The non-religious account for 0.1% of the population. Other religious groups include Bahai’s (2%) and Muslims (0.1%).

Kiribati looks set to disappear entirely as a consequence of global warming.2 The nation comprises 33 low-lying atolls and reef islands and one raised coral island.

The Constitution and other laws and policies protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of opinion, expression, and assembly (Articles 11, 12 and 13, respectively). These rights are generally respected in practice.

There is no state religion. However, the Constitution’s preamble states, “We the people of Kiribati, acknowledging God as the Almighty Father in whom we put trust, and with faith in the enduring value of our tradition and heritage, do now grant ourselves this Constitution establishing a sovereign democratic State.”

Additionally, governmental meetings and events often begin and end with an ordained minister or other church official delivering a Christian prayer.

‘Blasphemy’ laws

Articles 123 and 127 of the Kiribati Penal Code criminalize “insult to religion” and “uttering words with the intent to wound religious feelings,” designating them misdemeanours punishable by up to two years and one year in prison, respectively.

Humanists International has been unable to find any cases in which the law has been applied.