Religion in Africa
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Religion in Africa

Religion in Africa (2015 Study)

  Christianity (47.31%)
  Islam (44.29%)
  Others/None (8.40%)

Religion in Africa is multifaceted and has been a major influence on art, culture and philosophy. Today, the continent's various populations and individuals are mostly adherents of Christianity, Islam, and to a lesser extent several Traditional African religions. In Christian or Islamic communities, religious beliefs are also sometimes characterized with syncretism with the beliefs and practices of traditional religions.[1][2][3]

African Traditional Religion

Early 20th-century Yoruba divination board
Vodun altar in Abomey, Benin

Africa encompasses a wide variety of traditional beliefs. Although religious customs are sometimes shared by many local societies, they are usually unique to specific populations or geographic regions.[4]

According to Dr J Omosade Awolalu, The "traditional" in this context means indigenous, that which is foundational, handed down from generation to generation, meant as to be upheld and practised today and forevermore. A heritage from the past, yet not treated as a thing of the past but that which connects the past with the present and the present with eternity.[3]

Often spoken of in the terms of a singularity, deliberate; yet conscious of the fact that Africa is a large continent with multitudes of nations who have complex cultures, innumerable languages and myriad dialects.[3]

The essence of this school of thought is based mainly on oral transmission; that which is written in people's hearts, minds, oral history, customs, temples and religious functions.[5] It has no founders or leaders like Gautama Buddha, Jesus, or Muhammed.[6] It has no missionaries or the intent to propagate or to proselytise.[7] Some of the African traditional religions are those of the Serer of Senegal, the Yoruba and Igbo of Nigeria, and the Akan of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The religion of the Gbe peoples (mostly the Ewe and Fon) of Benin, Togo and Ghana is called Vodun and is the main source for similarly named religions in the diaspora, such as Louisiana Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, Cuban Vodú, Dominican Vudú and Brazilian Vodum

Abrahamic religions

The majority of Africans are adherents of Christianity or Islam. African people often combine the practice of their traditional belief with the practice of Abrahamic religions.[8][8][9][10][11][12] Abrahamic religions are widespread throughout Africa. They have both spread and replaced indigenous African religions, but are often adapted to African cultural contexts and belief systems. The World Book Encyclopedia has estimated that in 2002 Christians formed 40% of the continent's population, with Muslims forming 45%. It was also estimated in 2002 that Christians form 45% of Africa's population, with Muslims forming 40.6%.[13]

Christianity

Christianity is now one of the most widely practiced religions in Africa along with Islam and is the largest religion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most adherents outside Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea are Roman Catholic or Protestant.[] Several syncretistic and messianic sects have formed throughout much of the continent, including the Nazareth Baptist Church in South Africa and the Aladura churches in Nigeria.There is also fairly widespread populations of Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. The oldest Christian denominations in Africa are the Coptic church in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, all Oriental Orthodox, which rose to prominence in the fourth century AD after King Ezana the Great made Ethiopia one of the first Christian nations.[14]

In the first few centuries of Christianity, Africa produced many figures who had a major influence outside the continent, including St Augustine of Hippo, St Maurice, Origen, Tertullian, and three Roman Catholic popes (Victor I, Miltiades and Gelasius I), as well as the Biblical characters Simon of Cyrene and the Ethiopian eunuch baptised by Philip the Evangelist. Christianity existed in Ethiopia before the rule of King Ezana the Great of the Kingdom of Axum, but the religion took a strong foothold when it was declared a state religion in 330 AD, becoming one of the first Christian nations.[15] The earliest and best known reference to the introduction of Christianity to Africa is mentioned in the Christian Bible's Acts of the Apostles, and pertains to the evangelist Phillip's conversion of an Ethiopian traveler in the 1st century AD. Although the Bible refers to them as Ethiopians, scholars have argued that Ethiopia was a common term encompassing the area South-Southeast of Egypt.

Other traditions have the convert as a Jew who was a steward in the Queen's court.[clarification needed] All accounts do agree on the fact that the traveler was a member of the royal court who successfully succeeded in converting the Queen, which in turn caused a church to be built. Tyrannius Rufinus, a noted church historian, also recorded a personal account as do other church historians such as Socrates and Sozemius.[16] Some experts predict the shift of Christianity's center from the European industrialized nations to Africa and Asia in modern times. Yale University historian Lamin Sanneh stated, that "African Christianity was not just an exotic, curious phenomenon in an obscure part of the world, but that African Christianity might be the shape of things to come."[17] The statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia (David Barrett) illustrate the emerging trend of dramatic Christian growth on the continent and supposes, that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa.[18]

A 2015 study estimates 2,161,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in Africa, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.[19]

Islam

The Great Mosque of Kairouan, erected in 670 by the Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi, is the oldest mosque in North Africa,[20]Kairouan, Tunisia.

Islam is the other major religion in Africa alongside Christianity,[21] with 47% of the population being Muslim, accounting for 1/4 of the world's Muslim population.[] The faith's historic roots on the continent stem from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, whose early disciples migrated to Abyssinia (hijira) in fear of persecution from the pagan Arabs.

The spread of Islam in North Africa came with the expansion of Arab empire under Caliph Umar, through the Sinai Peninsula. Spread of Islam in West Africa was through Islamic traders and sailors.

Islam is the dominant religion in North Africa and the Horn of Africa. It has also become the predominant religion on the Swahili Coast as well as the West African seaboard and parts of the interior. There have been several Muslim empires in Western Africa which exerted considerable influence, notably the Mali Empire, which flourished for several centuries and the Songhai Empire, under the leadership of Mansa Musa, Sunni Ali and Askia Mohammed.

The vast majority of Muslims in Africa are Sunni, belonging to either Maliki or Shafi schools of jurisprudence. However, Hanafi school of jurisprudence is also represented, mainly in Egypt.[22] There are also sizeable minorities of Shias, Ahmadis, Ibadi and Sufis.[23]

Judaism

Adherents of Judaism can be found scattered in a number of countries across Africa; including North Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Southern Africa.

Bahá'í Faith

Bahá'í House of Worship, Kampala, Uganda.

The Bahá'í Faith in Africa has a diverse history. It especially had wide-scale growth in the 1950s which extended further in the 1960s.[24] The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) lists many large and smaller populations in Africa[25] with Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and Zambia among the top ten numerical populations of Bahá'ís in the world in 2005 (each with over 200,000 adherents), and Mauritius in terms of percentage of the national population.

All three individual heads of the religion, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi, were in Africa at various times. More recently the roughly 2000[26] Bahá'ís of Egypt have been embroiled in the Egyptian identification card controversy from 2006[27] through 2009.[28] Since then there have been homes burned down and families driven out of towns.[29] On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Bahá'ís were able to mobilize for nine regional conferences called for by the Universal House of Justice 20 October 2008 to celebrate recent achievements in grassroots community-building and to plan their next steps in organizing in their home areas.[30]

Hinduism

Hinduism has existed in Africa mainly since the late 19th century. It is the largest religion in Mauritius,[31] and several other countries have Hindu temples.[]

Buddhism and Chinese religions

Buddhism is a tiny religion in Africa with around 250,000 practicing adherents,[32] and up to nearly 400,000 [33] if combined with Taoism and Chinese Folk Religion as a common traditional religion of mostly new Chinese migrants (significant minority in Mauritius, Réunion, and South Africa). About half of African Buddhists are now living in South Africa, while Mauritius has the highest Buddhist percentage in the continent, between 1.5%[34] to 2%[35] of the total population.

Other religions

Other faiths are practiced in Africa, including Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Rastafarianism among others.[36]

Irreligion

A Gallup poll shows that the irreligious comprise 20% in South Africa, 16% in Botswana, 13% in Mozambique, 13% in Togo, 12% in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire, 10% in Ethiopia and Angola, 9% in Sudan, Zimbabwe and Algeria, 8% in Namibia and 7% in Madagascar.[37]

Syncretism

Syncretism is the combining of different (often contradictory) beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. In the commonwealth of Africa syncretism with indigenous beliefs is practiced throughout the region. It is believed by some to explain religious tolerance between different groups.[38] Kwesi Yankah and John Mbiti argue that many African peoples today have a 'mixed' religious heritage to try to reconcile traditional religions with Abrahamic faiths.[39][40]Jesse Mugambi claims that the Christianity taught to Africans by missionaries had a fear of syncretism, which was carried on by current African Christian leadership in an attempt to keep Christianity "pure."[41] Syncretism in Africa is said by others to be overstated,[42] and due to a misunderstanding of the abilities of local populations to form their own orthodoxies and also confusion over what is culture and what is religion.[] Others state that the term syncretism is a vague one,[43] since it can be applied to refer to substitution or modification of the central elements of Christianity or Islam with beliefs or practices from somewhere else. The consequences under this definition, according to missiologist Keith Ferdinando, are a fatal compromise of the religion's integrity. However, communities in Africa (e.g. Afro-Asiatic) have many common practices which are also found in Abrahamic faiths, and thus these traditions do not fall under the category of some definitions of syncretism.[44]

Religious distribution

Religion in Africa by country and region, as percentage of national populationn1
Coun­try Population Chris­ti­an­i­ty Christian Population Islam Muslim Population Other Other Religions
 Angola[45] 29,250,009 95 27,787,508 0.5 146,250 4.5 1,316,250
 Cameroon[46] 23,794,164 69 16,417,973 21 4,996,774 10 2,379,416
 Central African Republic[47] 4,737,423 50 2,368,711 15 710,613 35 1,658,098
 Chad[48] 15,353,184 41 6,294,805 58 8,904,846 1 153,531
 Democratic Republic of the Congo[49] 84,004,989 80 67,203,991 10 8,400,498 10 8,400,498
 Republic of the Congo[50] 5,399,895 79 4,265,917 1.6 86,398 19.4 1,047,579
 Equatorial Guinea[51] 1,222,442 91 1,112,422 4.1 50,120 4.9 59,899
 Gabon[52] 2,067,561 73 1,509,319 10 206,756 17 351,485
 São Tomé and Príncipe[53] 197,700 97 191,769 2 3,954 1 1,977
 Burundi[54] 10,681,186 75 8,010,889 5 534,059 20 2,136,237
 Comoros[55] 850,688 0.7 5,954 98.3 836,226 1 8,506
 Kenya[56] 50,950,879 83 42,289,229 11.2 5,706,498 5.8 2,955,150
 Madagascar[57] 26,262,810 41 10,767,752 7 1,838,396 52 13,656,661
 Malawi[58] 17,931,637 79.9 14,327,377 12.8 2,295,249 7.3 1,309,009
 Mauritius[59] 1,264,887 32.7 413,618 17.3 218,825 50 632,443
 Mayotte[60] 256,518 1.2 3,078 98.8 253,439 0 0
 Mozambique[61] 28,861,863 54.1 15,614,267 22.8 6,580,504 23.1 6,667,090
 Réunion[62] 865,826 84.8 734,220 4.2 36,364 11 95,240
 Rwanda[63] 12,001,136 93.4 11,209,061 4.8 576,054 1.8 216,020
 Seychelles[64] 94,205 93.1 87,704 1.1 1,036 5.8 5,463
 South Sudan[50] 12,323,419 60.5 7,455,668 6.2 764,051 32.9 4,054,404
 Tanzania[65] 54,199,163 61.4 33,278,286 35.2 19,078,105 1.8 975,584
 Uganda[66] 38,823,100 84.4 32,766,696 13.7 5,318,764 1.8 698,815
 Zambia[67] 16,887,720 87 14,692,316 1 168,877 12 2,026,526
 Djibouti[68] 1,049,001 3 31,470 97 1,017,530 0 0
 Eritrea[69] 5,187,948 46.4 2,407,207 51.6 2,676,981 2 103,758
 Ethiopia[70] 107,534,882 63 67,746,975 35 37,637,208 2 2,150,697
 Somalia[71] 15,181,925 0 0 100 15,181,925 0 0
 Algeria[72] 42,545,964 0.5 212,729 99 42,120,504 0.5 212,729
 Egypt[73] 97,521,500 10 9,752,150 90 87,769,350 0 0
 Libya[74] 6,470,956 2.4 155,302 96.6 6,250,943 1 64,709
 Morocco[75] 34,779,400 0.9 313,014 99.1 34,466,385 0 0
 Sudan[76] 40,810,080 3 1,224,302 97 39,585,777 0 0
 Tunisia 11,446,300 0 0 99.8 11,423,407 0.2 22,892
 Botswana[77] 2,302,878 79.1 1,821,576 0.6 13,817 20.3 467,484
 Lesotho[78] 2,263,010 80 1,810,408 0.1 2,263 19.9 450,338
 Namibia[79] 2,413,643 85 2,051,596 0.4 9,654 15 362,046
 South Africa[80] 57,725,600 79.7 46,007,303 1.9 1,096,786 18.5 10,679,236
 Swaziland[81] 1,159,250 85 985,362 10 115,925 5 57,962
 Zimbabwe[82] 14,848,905 84 12,473,080 3 445,467 13 1,930,357
 Benin[83] 11,362,269 48.5 5,510,700 27.7 3,147,348 22.6 2,567,872
 Burkina Faso[84] 20,244,080 29.8 6,032,735 61.5 12,450,109 8.7 1,761,234
 Cape Verde[85] 544,081 85 462,468 2 10,881 13 70,730
 Côte d'Ivoire[86] 24,571,044 33.9 8,329,583 42.9 10,540,977 23.2 5,700,482
 The Gambia[87] 2,163,765 4.2 90,878 95.7 2,070,723 0.2 4,327
 Ghana[88] 29,614,337 71 21,026,179 18 5,330,580 11 3,257,577
 Guinea[89] 11,883,516 9.7 1,152,701 86.2 10,243,590 4.1 487,224
 Guinea-Bissau[90] 1,584,763 22.1 350,232 45.1 714,728 32.8 519,802
 Liberia[91] 4,382,387 85 3,725,028 12.8 560,945 2.1 92,030
 Mali[92] 19,107,706 2.4 458,584 95 18,152,320 2.6 496,800
 Mauritania[93] 3,984,233 0 0 100 3,984,233 0 0
 Niger[94] 21,466,863 1 214,668 98.3 21,101,926 0.7 150,268
 Nigeria[95] 191,000,000 48.3 92,250,000 48.9 93,400,000 2.8 5,350,000
 Senegal[96] 15,726,037 3.6 566,137 96.1 15,112,721 0.3 47,178
 Sierra Leone[97] 7,719,729 20.8 1,605,703 78.6 6,067,706 0.5 38,598
 Western Sahara[98] 567,421 0 0 100 567,421 0 0
 Togo[99] 7,352,000 29 2,132,080 20 1,470,400 51 3749520
Africa 1,257,190,394 47.31 594,815,686 44.29 556,783,726 8.40 105,590,982
  1. ^ The most recent census data are used.

See also

References

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  96. ^ "The World Factbook". Retrieved 2015.
  97. ^ "Sierra Leone". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2015.
  98. ^ "The World Factbook -- Central Intelligence Agency". www.cia.gov. Retrieved .
  99. ^ Togo\. CIA - The World Factbook. Cia.gov.

Further reading

  • Bongmba, Elias Kifon, ed. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to African Religions (2012) excerpt
  • Engel, Elisabeth. Encountering Empire: African American Missionaries in Colonial Africa, 1900-1939 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2015). 303 pp.
  • Mbiti, John S. Introduction to African religion (2nd ed. 1991) excerpt
  • Olupona, Jacob K. African Religions: A Very Short Introduction (2014) excerpt
  • Parrinder, Geoffrey. African Traditional Religion. (3rd ed. London: Sheldon Press, 1974) ISBN 0-85969-014-8
  • Parinder, E. Geoffrey. Africa's Three Religions. (2nd ed. London: Sheldon Press, 1976). The three religions are traditional religions (grouped), Christianity, and Islam. ISBN 0-85969-096-2
  • Ray, Benjamin C. African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community (2nd ed. 1999)

External links


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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