Giving up on God - new figures show more are turning their back on religion
BUCKING THE TREND: The Rev Bob Buchanan says the congregation at his Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church is stable but many people in the area have ‘lost God’
YESTERDAY statisticians from the Office for National Statistics revealed more results from the 2011 Census, showing fewer of us believe in God, own homes or speak Welsh. DAVID DEANS reports.
BLAENAU Gwent has the highest proportion of people who say they have no religion than any other part of Wales.
It also has the third-highest proportion across England and Wales.
That’s according to Census 2011 data published by Office for National Statistics yesterday, which said that 41.1 per cent of people in the county ticked the ‘no religion’ box.
Caerphilly county came second with 40.9 per cent of people saying they don’t believe in any kind of God.
Blaenau Gwent also had Wales’ lowest rate of people saying they were Christian, at 49.9 per cent, while in Caerphilly the rate was 50.7 per cent.
The two boroughs are not alone, and across Wales almost one-third of the country said it had no religion.
The figures are higher than for any English region.
Clergymen told the Argus that people are more honest now about their religious faith than in the past – while one minister said some churches find it difficult to keep up their membership.
The Rev Bob Buchanan, of Abertillery’s Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church, said: “In our church we have stayed pretty stable over the course of the 15 years.
“But I think at other churches in the area numbers are going down and down to where there are just five or six members.”
He added: “People have given up here, given up on God.”
But the Rev Geoff Waggett, rector of Ebbw Vale, said he has seen little change in numbers at the three churches he is responsible for.
“In the last couple of years... people are either coming for the first time or coming back to the church,” he said.
Father Mark Soady, vicar of Abergavenny, said he believed people were more honest about not being religious than they might have been in the past.
“There was a habit in the past of saying they were Church of England even it they weren’t,” he said.
In Torfaen 35.8 per cent of people said they had no religion, while 55.4 per cent said they were Christian.
Monmouthshire had the highest proportion of Christians in Gwent at 62.5 per cent, with only 28.5 per cent saying they had no faith, while 29.7 per cent of Newport people said they were not religious.
In the city 56.9 per cent of people said they were Christian. Newport had the second-highest rate of Muslims in Wales, with 4.7 per cent of people classing themselves as such.
I was made welcome here – Zimbabwean asylum-seeker
THE number of people born outside the UK living in Wales has risen between 2001 and 2011 – but the nation remains predominantly white.
There were 92,000 more people who were born outside the UK according to the results of the 2011 Census.
But 96 per cent of the resident population – 2.9 million – was white in 2011, more than any other English region.
Newport had the second-highest number of people who were born outside the European Union at 5.7 per cent of the population.
It has the second-lowest proportion of white people of any local authority area in Wales – 87 per cent.
Almost everyone in Blaenau Gwent – 90.3 per cent – was born in Wales, the highest rate in the country, followed by Caerphilly at 88.6 per cent.
Robert Muza, 42, of Newport’s Somerton area, came to the UK in 2002 from Zimbabwe.
Mr Muza came to the UK as an asylumseeker after he left his home country because he was a member of the then opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
He said when he first arrived in Newport people were more welcoming and friendly than they had been where he was living in north London, helping him get from the railway station to his friend’s home in Barrack Hill. A father of two, who is a student at the University of Newport, said: “I fell in love with Newport.”
More rent from private landlord
THE number of people living in privately rented accommodation in Wales has risen by five per cent since the 2001 Census.
A total of 165,000 people in Wales told the Census that they live in properties they rent from a private landlord, up from 90,000 in 2001.
Newport had the highest rate of people living in privately rented accommodation in Gwent and the seventh in Wales, at 12.9 per cent. Torfaen had the lowest at 7.5 per cent.
Estate agent Alan Darlow, director of Roberts estate agents, said there had been a cultural change.
“The culture has changed now with more and more people renting, a little bit like Europe.”
He said his agency had got into lettings a few years ago when it had seen “the writing on the wall”.
Meanwhile, Blaenau Gwent had the third-highest rate in Wales of people who suffer from a long-term health problem or disability that restricts their dayto- day activities “a lot”.
The ONS says that 15.7 per cent of the population describe themselves as such.
It also had the second-highest rate of people who said they had a bad state of health, at 8.2 per cent of the population.
Overall four out of five people in Wales said they were in good or very good health.
Just under a quarter of those living in Wales had a longterm limiting illness, higher than any English region.
Last ten years sees decline in Welsh-speakers
THE proportion of people speaking Welsh in Wales fell by 1.7 per cent between 2001 and 2011 – with three Gwent counties recording falling numbers of speakers.
However, the number of speakers increased in the border county of Monmouthshire and remained steady in Caerphilly.
In Gwent as a whole 54,958 people said they spoke Welsh. In Blaenau Gwent the number of speakers fell by 1.6 per cent to 5,284.
There were 8,641 Welsh-speakers in Torfaen, down by 1.3 per cent, while there were 13,002 Welsh-speakers in Newport, a drop of 0.7 per cent.
Figures rose by 0.6 per cent in Monmouthshire to 8,780.
However, the proportion of people who spoke Welsh remained steady in Caerphilly, where 19,251 people speak the language.
All authorities in Wales, apart from Monmouthshire, saw a decrease in the number of children able to speak Welsh.
Elin Maher, development officer of Menter Iaith Casnewydd, said she wasn’t disheartened by the figures, which she said painted a truer picture of the situation than the 2001 Census had.
Ms Maher, whose group helps set up Welsh-speaking events for speakers and learners in Newport, said: “We need to be looking more at investing more in the Welsh language in communities.”
Yesterday’s figures also revealed that nearly two-thirds of Wales, two million, told the 2011 Census their national identity was Welsh.
Only 218,000 people considered themselves to be British as well.
Blaenau Gwent had the third highest percentage of people in Wales giving their national identity as Welsh-only, at 72.4 per cent, while 8.2 per cent said they were Welsh and British.