Religion in Africa: Wikis


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A map of the Africa, showing the major religions distributed as of today. Map shows only the religion as a whole excluding denominations or sects of the religions, and is colored by how the religions are distributed not by main religion of country. Where overlap, majority is displayed except for traditional religions practiced in a syncretic fashion.
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Religion in Africa is multifaceted. Most Africanians adhere to either Christianity or Islam. Islam and Christianity contest which is larger, but many people that are adherents of both religions also practice African traditional religions, with traditions of folk religion or syncretism practised alongside an adherent's Christianity or Islam.[1]


Abrahamic religions

The majority of Africans are adherents of the Abrahamic religions: Islam and Christianity. Both religions are widespread throughout Africa. These religions are often adapted to African cultural contexts and indigenous belief systems. It was estimated in 2000 that Christians form 40.6% of Africa's population, and Muslims forming 45% .[2]



Although Christianity existed far before the rule of King Ezana the Great of the Kingdom of Axum, the religion took a strong foot hold when it was declared a state religion in 330 AD. 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 converted 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 used for encompassing the area South-Southeast of Egypt.

Other traditions have the convert as a Jew who was a steward in the Queen’s court. 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.

Rufinus of Tyre, a noted church historian, also has recorded a personal account as do other church historians such as Socrates and Sozemius.[3]

After being shipwrecked and captured at an early age, Frumentius was carried to Axum where he was treated well with his companion Edesius. At the time, there was a small population of Christians living there who sought refuge from Roman persecution. Once of age, Frumentius and Edesius were allowed to return to their homelands, however they chose to stay at the request of the queen. In doing so, they began to secretly promote Christianity through the lands.

During a trip to meet with church elders, Frumentius met with Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria who was second in line to the pope. After recommending that a bishop be sent to proselytize, a council decided that Frumentius be appointed as a bishop to Ethiopia.

By 430 AD, Frumentius returned to Ethiopia, he was welcomed with open arms by the rulers who were at the time not Christian. Ten years later, through the support of the kings, the majority of the kingdom was converted and Christianity was declared the official state religion.


Islam has a huge following throughout Africa and it is one of the most widely practiced religions on the continent.[4] Its historic roots in Africa stem from the time of its founder Muhammad whose relatives and followers migrated on a hijra to Abyssinia in fear of persecution from the pagan Arabs. Islam spread to Africa via passages through the Sinai Peninsula and Egypt and through Islamic Arab and Persian traders and sailors. Islam's first muezzin, Bilal ibn Ribah, was also of Northeast African(Habasha) descent.

Islam is the dominant religion in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and it is also the predominant and historical religion of the West African interior and the far west coast of the continent as well as the coast of East Africa. Throughout history, there were several Muslim empires in Western Africa who exerted considerable influence notably the Mali Empire, which flourished for several centuries and the Songhai Empire, under the leadership of Sonni Ali and Askia Mohammed.

Islam continued a rapid growth into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Islamic values are seen to have much in common with traditional African life: its emphasis on communal living, its clear roles for men and women, its tolerance of polygamy. Muslims sometimes argue that Christianity is alien to most Africans, despite it having a longer history on the continent.[5] Today, Muslims have increased success in proselytizing, with a growth rate, by some estimates, that is twice as fast as Christianity in Africa.(This article refers to growth in Zambia not all Africa)[6] A notable example includes Rwanda where, according to reports, the percentage of Muslims in Rwanda has doubled[7] or tripled[8] since the genocide, due to Muslim protection of Tutsis and to Hutus wanting to distance themselves from those who committed genocide.


Adherents of Judaism too can be found scattered across Africa. Perhaps not as well known as the history of Christianity and Islam in Africa to the outside observer, Judaism has an ancient and rich history on the African continent. Today, there are Jewish communities in many countries; including the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, the Abayudaya of Uganda, the House of Israel in Ghana, the Igbo Jews of Nigeria and the Lemba of Southern Africa.

African adherents of Judaism


The history of Hinduism in Africa is, by most accounts, very short in comparison to that of Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. However, the presence of its practitioners in Africa dates back to pre-colonial times and even medieval times. There are sizable of Hindu populations in South Africa and the East African coastal nations.

Traditional religion

Traditional African religion encompasses a wide variety traditional beliefs. Traditional religious customs are sometimes shared by many African societies, but they are usually unique to specific ethnic groups. Many African Christians and Muslims maintain some aspects of their traditional religions.

Below are some of the African Traditional religions practiced in West Africa – for example, Benin, Nigeria and Ghana, amongst others.

1- There is Legba, the god of crossroads, who acts as a messenger to other gods. In downtown Cotonou, a gas station has gone up beside a famous shrine to Legba. At "Station Legba," as the sign says, you can fuel up and leave a priest instructions to pray for you.

2- Sango, the god of thunder, who acts and protects its loyal. It is better recognized with red and white attire for worship. Many Sangotians cut off parts of their body to offer as sacrafices to Sango. They believe that Sango will break the legs of their firstborn child if this is not done. General parts cut off are the lower ear, the lip, the foreskn in males and a nipple in females.

3- Orounmila/Eboh, this god is predominately worshiped in Benin Kingdom, and other cities in Nigeria. Mode of worship includes sacrificing of hen, kola nuts, turtles, white chalk and coconut while making chants in appealing the gods of Orounmila.

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica Book of the Year 2003. Encyclopedia Britannica, (2003) ISBN 9780852299562 p.306
    According to the Encyclopedia Britanica, as of mid-2002, there were 376,453,000 Christians, 329,869,000 Muslims and 98,734,000 people who practiced traditional religions in Africa. Ian S. Markham,(A World Religions Reader. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.) is cited by Morehouse University as giving the mid 1990s figure of 278,250,800 Muslims in Africa, but still as 40.8% of the total spaggetti These numbers are estimates, and remain a matter of conjecture. See Amadu Jacky Kaba. The spread of Christianity and Islam in Africa: a survey and analysis of the numbers and percentages of Christians, Muslims and those who practice indigenous religions. The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol 29, Number 2, June 2005. Discusses the estimations of various almanacs and encyclopedium, placing Britannica's estimate as the most agreed figure. Notes the figure presented at the World Christian Encyclopedia, summarized here, as being an outlier. On rates of growth, Islam and Pentecostal Christianity are highest, see: The List: The World’s Fastest-Growing Religions, Foreign Policy, May 2007.
  2. ^ "The Africanization of Missionary Christianity: History and Typology", Steven Kaplan, Journal of Religion in Africa 16 (3) (1986), 165-186. In Africa, Islam and Christianity are growing - and blending. Abraham McLaughlin The Christian Science Monitor, 26 January 2006.
  3. ^ Hansberry, William Leo. Pillars in Ethiopian History; the William Leo Hansberry African History Notebook. Washington: Howard University Press, 1934.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Rising Muslim Power in Africa Causing Unrest in Nigeria and Elsewhere, New York Times.
  6. ^ Islam making in-roads in Zambia
  7. ^ Emily Wax (2002-11-23). "Islam Attracting Many Survivors of Rwanda Genocide". Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post. p. A10. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  8. ^ Rwanda - International Religious Freedom Report 2003

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