Relations between Hindus and Christians in Trinidad and Tobago have significantly deteriorated recently, as Hindus have gained confidence with one of their own as prime minister and been emboldened by fundamentalist movements in majority Hindu nations such as India.

"If the tensions continue, it could erupt in a really serious crisis," says Trinidadian Walter Douglas, professor of religious history at Andrews University. "The implications are frightening."

Douglas says a worldwide resurgence of interest in Hinduism has been felt by minority Hindus on the two-island Caribbean nation. "Hindus are saying, We have something to offer," Douglas told CT. "Hinduism in the postmodern world has an evangelistic strategy, which has never been the case in the past."

Caribbean Hindus are stronger in their faith because some Christians have denigrated the religion, Douglas says.

Kenneth Ragoonath, World Evangelical Fellowship International Council's representative from Trinidad, says problems between East Indian Hindus and African Christians are "more racial than religious." Of Trinidad and Tobago's 1.2 million people, 40 percent are black Christians and 40 percent are East Indian Hindus.

Hindu Basedo Panday, of East Indian descent, has been prime minister since 1995, following 30 years of government by the People's National Movement, supported by blacks.

There are few reports of Hindu violence against the Afro-Christian community in Trinidad, but one church in a predominantly Hindu area has been burned three times.

Southern Baptist missionary to Trinidad Charley Rempel says Hindu meetings stressing home and family have been effective as a recruitment device, especially in "mixed" marriages. "People of African heritage who become disillusioned are easy converts to Hinduism," Rempel says.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.