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Religion in Africa 1

Religion in Africa

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.

Religions by country

Religion Portal

Religion in Africa is multifaceted. Most Africans adhere to either Christianity or


Islam. Christianity and Islam 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]
Judaism also has roots in Africa, due to the time the Israelites spent in Egypt before
the Exodus.[2] Around 15% of Africans follow one of the traditional African religions
and a small minority of Africans are non-religious.

The original religions of Africa have been declining over the past century due to the
influences of colonialism, acculturation and increasing proselytizing by Christianity
and Islam. However, in the Americas and Caribbean, syncretistic religions involving
African religions are growing.[3] Religious adherents in Africa are often of a syncretic The Hanging Church of Cairo,
nature.[4] Egypt.

African traditional religion


Traditional African religions encompass a wide variety of traditional beliefs. Traditional religious customs are
sometimes shared by many African societies, but they are usually unique to specific ethnic groups. Traditional
African religions used to be adhered to by the majority of Africa's population, however since the rapid expansion of
Christianity and Islam they have become a minority across much of their own continent. Many African Christians
and Muslims maintain some aspects of their original traditional religions.
Religion in Africa 2

Some indigenous African religions worship a single God (Chukwu, Nyame, Olodumare, Ngai etc.), and some
recognize a dual or complementary twin God such as Mawu-Lisa. Obeisance can be paid to the primary God through
lesser deities (Ogoun, Da, Agwu, Esu, Mbari, etc.). Some societies also deify entities like the earth, the sun, the sea,
lightning, or Nature. Each deity can have its own priest or priestess.Jacob Olupona and Charles E. Long, Editors,
African Spirituality. New York: Cross Road Publishing Co., 2000. Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, The Water Goddess in Igbo
Cosmology; Ogbuide of Oguta Lake. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008. The Ndebele and Shona ethnic groups
of Zimbabwe have a trinity - a fundamental family group - made up of God the Father, God the Mother, and God the
Son. Among the Fon of West Africa and Benin, God, who is called "Vondu", is androgynous, with both male and
female traits.
The Ewe people of southern Ghana have a conception of the high God as a female-male partnership. Mawu who is
female is often spoken of as gentle and forgiving. Lisa who is male renders judgment and punishes. Among the Ewe
it is believed that when Lisa punishes, Mawu may grant forgiveness. Here we see the complementarity or
"supplementarity" (Derrida's term) of male and female that characterizes many of the traditional African religions.
The only example in Africa of a female high Goddess is among the Southern Nuba of Sudan, whose culture has
matriarchal traits. The Nuba conceive of the creator Goddess as the "Great Mother" who gave birth to earth and to
mankind. (Mbiti, J.S., Introduction to African Religion, Oxford, 1975, p. 53.)
Polytheism in Africa has developed several times independently and in very different ways. For example in the case
of ancient Egypt where a pantheon was worshipped or in the case of the Orisha religion in West Africa.

Abrahamic religions
The majority of Africans are adherents of Christianity or Islam. Both religions are widespread throughout Africa.
They have both spread at the expense of indigenous African religions, but are often adapted to African cultural
contexts and belief systems. It was estimated in 2002 that Christians form 40% of Africa's population, with Muslims
forming 45%.[5]

Christianity
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 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. 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.[6]
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.
Religion in Africa 3

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.
Rastafari
There are also Rasta communities in Africa. In the Ivory Coast presidential candidates tried to reach out to voters in
the Rasta village of Port Bouet.[7] [8]

Islam
According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam is the largest
religion in Africa,[9] with 47% of the population being Muslim. Its
historic roots in Africa stem from the time Muhammad whose relatives
and the epic followers migrated on a hijra to Abyssinia in fear of
persecution from the pagan Arabs.
The main spread of Islam came with the invasion of Egypt under
Caliph Umar, through the Sinai Peninsula - followed by the rapid
conquest of North Africa by the Arab armies - as well as through
Islamic Arab and Persian traders and sailors. Abuja National Mosque in Nigeria.
Islam is the dominant religion in North Africa and the Horn of Africa,
and it has also become 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. 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 Sonni Ali and Askia Mohammed.

Islam continued a rapid growth into the 20th and 21st centuries - expanding mainly at the expense of traditional
African religions. Islamic values are seen to have much in common with traditional African life: its emphasis on
communal living, its clear and distinct 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.[10] A notable
example includes Rwanda where, according to reports, the percentage of Muslims in Rwanda has doubled[11] or
tripled[12] since the genocide, due to Muslim protection of Tutsis and to Hutus wanting to distance themselves from
those who committed genocide.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is relatively modern community which is progressing relatively rapidly,
particularly in West Africa.
Religion in Africa 4

Judaism
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.

Baha'i
Baha'i Faith is the 3rd most widespread organized Abrahamic religion in
Africa after Islam and Christianity.[13] African Bahá'í Community statistics
are also hard to come by. However, Africans have a long history with the
Bahá'í Faith; several of the earliest followers of both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh
were reportedly African. From 1924 to 1960 the religion was declared one of
the legally sanctioned faiths in Egypt, but has since then been subject to
restrictions and outright persecution by authorities and others

Hinduism
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
Bahá'í House of Worship, Kampala,
medieval times. There are sizable of Hindu populations in South Africa and
Uganda.
the East African coastal nations.

References
[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.)
(http:/ / www. greenwoodsvillage. com/ gor/ islam. htm) 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 (http:/ / www. afrikaworld. net/ afrel/ Statistics. htm), as being an outlier. On rates of growth, Islam and
Pentecostal Christianity are highest, see: The List: The World’s Fastest-Growing Religions (http:/ / www. foreignpolicy. com/ story/ cms.
php?story_id=3835), Foreign Policy, May 2007.
[2] "Moses." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
[3] http:/ / www. religioustolerance. org/ ifa. htm
[4] Restless Spirits: Syncretic Religion (http:/ / www. jpanafrican. com/ docs/ vol3no5/ 3. 5-6newRestless. pdf) Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D. Associate
Professor of African American Religion & Literature
[5] 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.)
(http:/ / www. greenwoodsvillage. com/ gor/ islam. htm) 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 (http:/ / www. afrikaworld. net/ afrel/ Statistics. htm), as being an outlier. On rates of growth, Islam and
Pentecostal Christianity are highest, see: The List: The World’s Fastest-Growing Religions (http:/ / www. foreignpolicy. com/ story/ cms.
php?story_id=3835), Foreign Policy, May 2007.
Religion in Africa 5

[6] Hansberry, William Leo. Pillars in Ethiopian History; the William Leo Hansberry African History Notebook. Washington: Howard
University Press, 1934.
[7] "spokesman for Ivorian President speaks to the Rastafari community in the Rasta village of Port Bouet, Abidjan" (http:/ / www. daylife. com/
photo/ 07ou8DN1wwepa?q=Rastafari). Daylife.com. 2010-01-06. . Retrieved 2010-02-01.
[8] "drawing of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie at Rasta village of Port Bouet" (http:/ / www. daylife. com/ photo/
0cNSdwI3d6bKU?q=ethiopian). Daylife.com. 2010-01-06. . Retrieved 2010-02-01.
[9] 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 480,453,000 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.)
(http:/ / www. greenwoodsvillage. com/ gor/ islam. htm) 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 (http:/ / www. afrikaworld. net/ afrel/ Statistics. htm), as being an outlier. On rates of growth, Islam and
Pentecostal Christianity are highest, see: The List: The World’s Fastest-Growing Religions (http:/ / www. foreignpolicy. com/ story/ cms.
php?story_id=3835), Foreign Policy, May 2007.
[10] Rising Muslim Power in Africa Causing Unrest in Nigeria and Elsewhere (http:/ / query. nytimes. com/ gst/ fullpage.
html?res=9C00EEDC1030F932A35752C1A9679C8B63& sec=& spon=& pagewanted=1), New York Times.
[11] Emily Wax (2002-11-23). "Islam Attracting Many Survivors of Rwanda Genocide" (http:/ / www. washingtonpost. com/ wp-dyn/ articles/
A53018-2002Sep22. html). Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post. p. A10. . Retrieved 2007-12-04.
[12] Rwanda - International Religious Freedom Report 2003 (http:/ / www. state. gov/ g/ drl/ rls/ irf/ 2003/ 23746. htm)
[13] http:/ / www. h-net. org/ ~bahai/ bhpapers/ vol1/ africa1. htm

External links
• Theology in Africa (http://www.theologyinafrica.com)
• BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/index_section6.shtml)
• Afrikaworld.net (http://afrikaworld.net/afrel/)
• Text of "Atoms and Ancestors", considered a classic study (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/books/atoms/
fred.html)
• Stanford Page (http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/religion/african-traditional-religion.html)
• African Religions at Africa Missions Resource Center (http://www.africamissions.org/africa/african_religion.
html)
• "Bwiti: An Ethnography of the Religious Imagination in Africa", James Fernandez, Princeton University Press,
1982 (http://www.ibogaine.desk.nl/fernandez.html)
• http://www.scn.org/rdi/kw-gods.htm
• The Meaning of Peace in African Traditional Religion and Culture (http://afrikaworld.net/afrel/goddionah.
htm)
• Introduction to Afro-American Studies (http://eblackstudies.org/intro/)
Article Sources and Contributors 6

Article Sources and Contributors


Religion in Africa  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?oldid=403033806  Contributors: 2D, 777anton, ANTIcarrot, Abu Shawka, Adil your, Aggelophoros, Ahanta, Aitias, Alansohn,
Ali M Saad, Alien666, Analyzer99, Angelo De La Paz, Anthro150, Apardee, Armoreno10, Ashley Y, Assasin825, Atlpedia, BD2412, BarretBonden, Belovedfreak, Benbest, Bilby, Black Falcon,
Blargnargles, Bobobo135, BrightBlackHeaven, Can't sleep, clown will eat me, Capricorn42, Captain-n00dle, CardinalDan, Carlaude, Catgut, Cattus, Ciphergoth, Coptic ray, DFS454, Darth
Panda, Dbachmann, Doc Strange, Downgrader, Dskluz, Dwo, Edanfor, EivindJ, Elmiguel409, Epbr123, Eric-Wester, Escape Orbit, Ezeu, Fayenatic london, Finlay, Flewis, Freestylefrappe,
Fuhghettaboutit, Grim23, Gringo300, Guiltyspark, Hajatvrc, Hamtechperson, Happysailor, Hmains, Iridescent, Iwanttoeditthissh, J.delanoy, Jamesjonessic, Jeff G., Jigglyfidders, Jim Douglas,
Jimjonessic, Joseph Solis in Australia, Jurema Oliveira, Kakofonous, Kappa, KazakhPol, Kbenroth, Koavf, Kuru, LilHelpa, Lousyd, Madhero88, Mangostar, Marsballer42344, Mbolo, Michael
Devore, Middayexpress, Mr. Lefty, Mungomba, Muntuwandi, Nakon, Nannus, Necromancer44, Neelix, Neurolysis, NrDg, Omphaloscope, Opticals, Orange Suede Sofa, Orijok, Oxymoron83,
Papercutbiology, Peaceworld111, PhilKnight, Picaroon, Prsephone1674, Reedy, Resoluthed, Rich Farmbrough, SJP, Sarcelles, Scythian1, Shawnhath, Shot info, Silence, Skysmith, Smkolins,
Staka, Star667, Stephen Burnett, Synchronism, T L Miles, T. Anthony, Timo Honkasalo, Tommy2010, Troglo, Uncle Dick, Vegaswikian, Veledan, VigilancePrime, Warofdreams, Welsh, Wiki
Raja, Wikipelli, Zacatecnik, Zalgo, Zaza8675, Zyxoas, 312 anonymous edits

Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors


Image:Religion distribution Africa crop.png  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Religion_distribution_Africa_crop.png  License: Public Domain  Contributors:
User:Moshin, User:T L Miles
File:Cairo, Old Cairo, Hanging Church, Egypt, Oct 2004.jpg  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Cairo,_Old_Cairo,_Hanging_Church,_Egypt,_Oct_2004.jpg  License:
Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5  Contributors: User:Blueshade
Image:AbujaNationalMosque.jpg  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:AbujaNationalMosque.jpg  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0  Contributors:
Shiraz Chakera
File:Africa's Bahai temple in Kampala.jpg  Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Africa's_Bahai_temple_in_Kampala.jpg  License: Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike
2.0  Contributors: Shiraz Chakera

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