Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

August 2, 2012

Catholic Asian Americans: A Mosaic of Faith

The Pew Forum of Religion& Public Life has released a new report about Asian-Americans and their religious affiliations and practices. In addition to helping you understand the religious composition of your own local or school community, you may find the information useful for student research or class activities, especially in a World Religions course.

The report broke down the Asian-American community by country and religious affiliation. Here are the percentages of Catholics within the Asian-American subgroups as well as the religious affiliation (or non-affiliation) of the largest religious groups from each country of origin:

  • 65 percent of Filipino Americans (largest group: Catholics)
  • 30 percent of Vietnamese Americans (largest group: 43 percent Buddhist)
  • 10 percent of Korean Americans (largest group: 61 percent Protestant)
  • 8 percent of Chinese Americans (largest group: 52 percent, unaffiliated)
  • 5 percent of Indian Americans (largest group: 51 percent Hindu)
  • 4 percent of Japanese Americans (largest groups: 33 percent Protestant and 32 percent unaffiliated)

The survey results provide interesting insights into Asian-Americans’ lived experience. Surveyors asked, for example, “Overall, do you think of yourself to be a typical American or very different from a typical American?” Forty-six percent of Catholics felt like they were typical Americans while 49 percent did not. Buddhists and Hindus were more likely to see themselves as different (59 percent each). Could this self-understanding affect the way we interact with parents of Asian-American students or with the students themselves?

Academically, over half (57 percent) of Asian American Hindus have education beyond a college degree. Seventeen percent of Asian American Catholics, 15 percent of white Catholics, and 4 percent of Hispanic Catholics have gone to graduate school.

Interestingly, 76 percent of Asian American Buddhists and 73 percent of Asian-American Hindus celebrate Christmas. How can these two subgroups stay true to their own faith traditions? “Most Asian-American Buddhists (79 percent) and Asian-American Hindus (91 percent), for instance, reject the notion that their religion is the one, true faith and say instead that many religions can lead to eternal life (or, in the case of Buddhists, to enlightenment).” Do you think that these traditions may have influence your students’ understanding of Catholicism?

See http://www.pewforum.org/Asian-Americans-A-Mosaic-of-Faiths.aspx for the full report as well as summaries and charts about these topics.

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