Area 22,965 sq.km. Caribbean coastal enclave bordering on Guatemala and Mexico. It has the world's second-largest coral barrier reef.
Central America's most sparsely populated country.
Capital Belmopan 6,817. Other major city: Belize City 130,000. Urbanites 48%.
Mestizo/Ladino 43%. Predominantly Guatemalans and Hondurans, with considerable illegal immigration in the 1980s.
Afro-Caribbean 29.5%. Mainly English-speaking. Politically dominant.
Amerindian 11%. Mayans, 3 main languages: Ketchi 20,000; Mopan 6,000; Yucatec 5,600.
Garifuna (Black Carib) 6.6%. Descendants of African slaves and Arawakans.
Europeans 3.9%. Mainly German Mennonites and British.
Other 6%. East Indian 8,400; Chinese 6,000.
Literacy 70%. Official language English. Spanish spoken by 50% of the population. All languages 9. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 5NT.
Poorly developed infrastructure slows economic progress, yet relatively prosperous. Main sources of income: ecotourism (40% of country is set aside as national parks and reserves), US aid, agriculture. HDI 0.732; 83rd/174. Public debt 32% of GNP. Income/person $2,700 (8.5% of USA).
Independence from Britain in 1981 as a stable parliamentary democracy. Guatemala long laid claim to Belize, but now recognizes it as an independent state.
A secular state with freedom of religion.
1 Belizeans are largely professing Christians, but nominalism and syncretism are common. The Spanish-speaking immigrants with their superstitions and superficiality, the Mayans with their underlying paganism, and the Garifuna with their black magic each need a culturally relevant and sensitive presentation of the gospel. Many settlements still need church-planting ministry, despite the five-fold increase in congregations since 1960.
a) The Mennonites, many of whom live in introspective communities with their own dialect of German. Belize has a higher percentage of Mennonites than any other country. Pray for revival in their communities.
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