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One in every three Maltese sees religion as part of island’s national identity

The numerous churches that dot the island symbolise the importance the Maltese attach to Christianity. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The numerous churches that dot the island symbolise the importance the Maltese attach to Christianity. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Being Christian is one of the main characteristics of Malta’s identity, according to nearly one in every three Maltese who replied to an EU-wide survey.

The results, published in Brussels yesterday, show the Maltese among the EU nationalities most attached to religion, although they did not rank first in this category.

Conducted in Malta last March, the survey delved into what makes for a Maltese and a European identity.

For the majority of Europeans, religion has nothing to do with one’s national identity, with just nine per cent attaching importance to this factor. Not so in Malta, where the significance of “being Christian” shoots up to 30 per cent.

The only other populations that view Christianity as being part and parcel of their national identity are Romanians (36 per cent), the Cypriots (35 per cent) and the Greeks (33 per cent).

The only other elements which according to Maltese respondents make someone Maltese is the fact of being born in Malta (68 per cent) or having a right to vote in an election (31 per cent).

The results of the survey also show that the majority of Maltese are very satisfied with their European identity following the island’s accession to the EU in 2004. And the fact that Malta joined the eurozone in 2008 adds to the feeling of Europeanness.

Asked to mention the two most important elements of making them feel European, 45 per cent mentioned the euro and 32 per cent the democratic values. For 61 per cent of Maltese, it is “very important” that they are “Europeans”, while 37 per cent said it was “not an important issue”.

The smallness of the island and mass emigration in the 1960s and 1970s have clearly left their mark on the Maltese particularly in terms of their attachment to other countries.

Sixty per cent of Maltese said they had close relatives (parents, children, brothers or sisters) living abroad – the highest proportion in the EU, where the average of those having relatives living in another country stood at just 27 per cent.

Asked whether they felt attached to another country, apart from Malta, many (32 per cent) mentioned the UK, followed by Italy (21 per cent) and the US (three per cent). The main reason given is close family ties. Asked whether “it is likely” that they would move to these countries in the coming 10 years, 11 per cent said it was “likely”.

Language, another important aspect of national identity, also featured prominently in this survey with 96 per cent of Maltese saying Maltese is their mother tongue with two per cent saying English.

The Maltese are among the most conversant in foreign languages – 83 per cent said they would be able to hold a conversation in English, while 41 per cent said they could speak fluently in Italian.

Other conversation languages mentioned by Maltese were French (10 per cent), German (four per cent) and Arabic (one per cent). But 10 per cent of respondents said they could only speak Maltese.

Factbox

• 61 per cent of the Maltese feel it is very important they are European

• 60 per cent have close relatives living abroad

• 32 per cent feel attached to the UK and 21 per cent to Italy

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