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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It has no founders or leaders like Gautama Buddha, Jesus, or Muhammed. It has no missionaries or the intent to propagate or to proselytise. 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.
According to Lugira, the Traditional African religions are the only religions "that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world."
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. 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%.
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 Greek Orthodox 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 Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (which rose to prominence in the fourth century AD after King Ezana the Great made Ethiopia one of the first Christian nations.)
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. 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. Tyrannius Rufinus, a noted church historian, also recorded a personal account as do other church historians such as Socrates and Sozemius. 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." 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.
A 2015 study estimates 2,161,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in Africa, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.
Islam is the other major religion in Africa alongside Christianity, 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.
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. There are also sizeable minorities of Shias, Ahmadis, Ibadi and Sufis.
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.
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. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) lists many large and smaller populations in Africa 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 Bahá'ís of Egypt have been embroiled in the Egyptian identification card controversy from 2006 through 2009. Since then there have been homes burned down and families driven out of towns. 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.
Hinduism has existed in Africa mainly since the late 19th century. It is the largest religion in Mauritius, and several other countries have Hindu temples. Hindus came to South Africa as indentured laborers in the 19th century. The young M.K. Gandhi lived and worked among the Indian community in South Africa for twenty years before returning to India to participate in India’s freedom movement.
Buddhism is a tiny religion in Africa with around 250,000 practicing adherents, and up to nearly 400,000  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% to 2% of the total population.
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.
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. 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. 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." Syncretism in Africa is said by others to be overstated, 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, 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.
|Country||Population||Islam||Muslim Population||Christianity||Christian Population||Other||Other Religions|
| Central African Republic
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||84,004,989||15||12,600,748||78||65,523,891||7||5,880,349|
|Republic of the Congo||5,399,895||1.6||86,398||79||4,265,917||19.4||1,047,579|
| Equatorial Guinea
| São Tomé and Príncipe
| South Africa
| Burkina Faso
| Cape Verde
| Côte d'Ivoire
| The Gambia
| Sierra Leone
AWQAF Africa (also known or referred to as AWQAF or The Awqaf) serves all countries of Africa: South, North, West, East, and other territorial geography of the continent including its islands in the Indian and Atlantic oceans and Mediterranean Sea, as well as the West Indies. Awqaf Africa, from time to time, extends its works to all Muslims outside the continent - especially in the Muslim World. Awqaf Africa carries out its projects in all parts of the world – globalizing, as necessary, in the cause of One Human Race under the banner of Islam.AWQAF Africa Muslim Open College
AWQAF Africa Muslim Open College is an institution of AWQAF Africa's educational department. It was launched in London 2005 to cater for educational needs of the Africans (including the North Africans) and for people of African origin (e.g. the Caribbeans).Africa (goddess)
Goddess Africa, also known as Dea Africa, was the personification of Africa by the Romans in the early centuries of the common era. She was one of the fertility and abundance deities to some. Her iconography typically included an elephant-mask head dress, curly hair, broad nose, a cornucopia, and a lion.She is portrayed on some coins, carved stones, and mosaics in Roman Africa. A mozaic of her is found in the El Djem museum of Tunisia. A sanctuary found in Timgad (Thamugadi in Berber) features goddess Africa's iconography.Pliny the Elder, in his book Natural Story, wrote "in Africa nemo destinat aliquid nisi praefatus Africam", which scholars translate as "no one in Africa does anything without first calling on Africa". This has been the literary proof of her existence and importance, in some cases interpreted as a proof for a North African goddess-centric cult. Other writers have also interpreted the female personification of Africa to be a "Dea" or goddess.Maritz, however, has questioned whether personified Africa was ever a "Dea" or goddess to Romans, or anywhere else. The iconographic images of "Dea Africa" with elephant scalp head dress was just a Roman icon for Africa, states Maritz. This is likely because neither Pliny nor any writer thereafter ever wrote "Dea" for her, nor is there an epigraphical inscription stating "Dea Africa". In contrast, other Roman goddesses carry the prefix Dea in texts and inscriptions. Romans already had their own goddesses of fertility and abundance, states Maritz, and there was no need for a competing goddess with the same deity role.Houghtalin offers a different theory, suggesting that the Roman iconography was based on the coins of King Ibaras of Numidia, a kingdom that the Roman army in Pompey defeated in 1st century BCE. According to Ida Ostenberg, if Houghtalin is right, then the personification of Africa in the Roman imagination may have arrived through Pompey.Freedom of religion by country/Africa
The status of religious freedom in Africa varies from country to country. States can differ based on whether or not they guarantee equal treatment under law for followers of different religions, whether they establish a state religion (and the legal implications that this has for both practitioners and non-practitioners), the extent to which religious organizations operating within the country are policed, and the extent to which religious law is used as a basis for the country's legal code.
There are further discrepancies between some countries' self-proclaimed stances of religious freedom in law and the actual practice of authority bodies within those countries: a country's establishment of religious equality in their constitution or laws does not necessarily translate into freedom of practice for residents of the country. Additionally, similar practices (such as having citizens identify their religious preference to the government or on identification cards) can have different consequences depending on other sociopolitical circumstances specific to the countries in question.
Most countries in Africa legally establish that freedom of religion is a right conferred to all individuals. The extent to which this is enforced in practice varies greatly from country to country. Several countries have anti-discrimination laws which prohibit religious discrimination. Many countries, particularly in West Africa and Southern Africa, have a high degree of religious tolerance, both as enforced by the government, and as reflected by societal attitudes. Others, however, have significant levels of religious discrimination, either practiced by government apparatuses or by the general public. Groups facing significant levels of legal discrimination in Africa include Muslims (in majority Christian countries), Christians (in majority Muslim countries), Bahai Faith practitioners, Ahmadiyya Muslims (in Muslim countries), and Rastafarians. Additionally, some countries have significant levels of societal animosity against atheists. Some countries ban witchcraft.
Several countries establish Islam as a state religion, and some countries with significant Muslim populations also have significant government oversight of Islamic practice in the country, up to and including the establishment of religious Islamic courts, which are most commonly used for family law. These courts are usually present in addition to secular courts, and typically have a subordinate role, although this is not always the case.
Several countries require that religious organizations register with the government, and some ban the establishment of religious political parties. Several countries provide funding for religious institutions and/or pilgrimages.
Religiously motivated violence is present in some countries, particularly ones that have a high level of political instability or active insurgencies.Hauka
The Hauka movement was a religious movement which arose in French Colonial Africa. It consisted of ceremonies, including mimicry and dancing, in which the participants performed the elaborate military ceremonies of their colonial occupiers. It was depicted in Les Maîtres Fous (The Mad Masters – 1955), a short film directed by Jean Rouch, a well-known French film director and ethnologist.According to some anthropologists, the movement was a form of resistance that began in Niger, but spread to other parts of Africa. They say this pageant, though historic, was largely done to mock the settlers' authority by stealing their powers. Hauka members were not trying to emulate Europeans, but were trying to extract their life force. This stance has been heavily criticized by anthropologist James G. Ferguson, who finds this imitation not about importing colonialism into indigenous culture, but as a way to gain rights and status in the colonial society. The adoption of European customs was not a form of resistance, but to be “respected by the Europeans.”Hausa animism
Hausa animism or Bori is an African traditional religion of the Hausa people of West Africa that involves spirit possession.Jainism in Africa
The history of Jainism in Africa is relatively short when compared with the histories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam on the same continent. There are about 20,000 Jains and around 10 Jain organizations in Africa.Journal of Religion in Africa
The Journal of Religion in Africa is a quarterly academic journal established in 1967 by Andrew Walls. It focuses on all religious traditions in Africa.Kongo religion
Kongo religion is a broad set of traditional beliefs from the KiKongo speaking peoples. The faith bases itself in the idea of a main creator god named Nzambi Mpungu who made the world and spirits who inhabit it. Priestly doctors known as Nganga try to heal followers minds and bodies. Mediatory roles like being a Nganga require legitimization from the other world of spirits and ancestors. The universe is split between two worlds, one of the living (nza yayi) and a world of the dead (nsi a bafwa), these worlds are split by a body of water. Humans continually pass through these worlds in cycle.Marabout
A marabout (Arabic: مُرابِط, romanized: murābiṭ, lit. 'one who is attached/garrisoned') is a Muslim religious leader and teacher in West Africa, and (historically) in the Maghreb. The marabout is often a scholar of the Qur'an, or religious teacher. Others may be wandering holy men who survive on alms, Sufi Murshids ("Guides"), or leaders of religious communities.Memon people
The term Memon refers to a mostly Muslim community from the western part of South Asia, including Memons historically associated with Kathiawar. It can also refer to Kutchi Memons and Sindhi Memons. They are associated with the Memon language. Many Memons migrated to Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947.Nganga
Nganga is a Kikongo language term for herbalist or spiritual healer in many African societies and also in many societies of the African diaspora such as those in Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba. It is derived from *-ganga in proto-Njila, an early branch of the Bantu family. The verb form related to it, -gang- relates to wisdom, knowledge and skill.
As this term is a multiple reflex of a Proto-Bantu root, there are slight variations on the term throughout the entire Bantu-speaking world.Nyau
Nyau (also: Nyao meaning mask or initiation) is a secret society of the Chewa, an ethnic group of the Bantu peoples from Central and Southern Africa. The Nyau society consists of initiated members of the Chewa and Nyanja people, forming the cosmology or indigenous religion of the people. Initiations are separate for men and for women, with different knowledge learned and with different ritual roles in the society according to gender and seniority. Only initiates are considered to be mature and members of the Nyau.The word Nyau is not only used for the society itself, but also for the indigenous religious beliefs or cosmology of people who form this society, the ritual dance performances, and the masks used for the dances. Nyau societies operate at the village level, but are part of a wide network of Nyau across the central and part of the southern regions of Malawi, eastern Zambia, western Mozambique and areas where Malawians migrated in Zimbabwe.During performances with the masks women and children often rush into the houses when a Nyau performer threatens, as the masks are worn by only male members of the society and represent male knowledge. At that moment in the performance and rituals, Nyau masked dancers are understood to be spirits of the dead. As spirits the masquerades may act with impunity and there have been attacks and deaths during performances in the past. Increasing westernization has led to a decrease in Nyau.Okuyi
The Okuyi (plural: Mekuyo, also known as Ukuyi, Ocuya, Mokoi, Mukudj, Ikwara, Okukwe and Mbwanda, in Equatorial Guinea (Spanish): Mamarracho) is a rite of passage practised by several Bantu ethnic groups in different countries mainly across the west coast of Central Africa. Some of the countries where the rite is exercised include Cameroon in West Central Africa, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Traditionally, the rite is performed at numerous special occasions including funerals and weddings. Usually when an infant reaches four months of age or when a child becomes an adolescent, an Okuyi ritual is applied as well. Today, the Mekuyo rite is exercised by a range of ethnic peoples within the Bantu cluster. The coastal community known as Ndowe, also known as playeros, is a primary example, as peoples across Equatorial Guinea frequently perform the ritual in public. Gabon has two chief ethnic groups that exercise the Okuyi rite including the Mpongwe and Galwa from Lambaréné, Gabon. The man in the custome is usually the leader of the group.
The history of the Mekuyo can be traced back to Gabon. The dance is believed to have originated from the rites of passages initiated by western and southern ethnic groups like the Mpongwe and from the Galwa region. It was in the mid-nineteenth century when the Benga people, who are both native to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, introduced the ethnic performance to the island of Corisco and Cabo San Juan. At the end of the century, the coastal group of the Kombe people had extended the routine to Mbini. By the beginning of the twentieth century, several clans in Bata such as the Punta Mbonda had embraced the Mekuyo tradition. Throughout the Mekuyo’s history there have been several famous Ukuyi performers. Some of the most famous are from Equatorial Guinea such as Alonga from Corisco and Boso bua Ndondjo from Mbini. Well known Okuyi dancers from the Litoral Province include Kungulu, Ngadi, Aduma and Ngüende a limba from Ekuku.Outline of Africa
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the continent Africa:
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. It is famous for its savanna, its jungles, and the Sahara (desert).Religion in Senegal
Religion and beliefs occupy an important place in the daily life of the nation of Senegal. A large majority (94%) of the Senegalese population is Muslim, mainly Sunni of Maliki school of jurisprudence with Sufi influences. Christians (principally Catholics) represent 4%. Traditional beliefs are officially practiced by 1% of the population, but members of other religions also often partake in traditional practices.Religious freedom is protected in Senegal by law. Senegalese culture, in general, is religiously tolerant.Ritual servitude
Ritual servitude is a practice in Ghana, Togo, and Benin where traditional religious shrines (popularly called fetish shrines in Ghana) take human beings, usually young virgin girls, in payment for services, or in religious atonement for alleged misdeeds of a family member. In Ghana and in Togo it is practiced by the Ewe tribe in the Volta region; in Benin it is practiced by the Fon.These shrine slaves serve the priests, elders, and owners of a traditional religious shrine without remuneration and without their consent, although the consent of the family or clan may be involved. Those who practice ritual servitude usually feel that the girl is serving the god or gods of the shrine and is married to the gods of the shrine.If a girl runs away or dies, she must be replaced by another girl from the family. Some girls in ritual servitude are the third or fourth girl in their family suffering for the same crime, sometimes for something as minor as the loss of trivial property.
This form of slavery is still practiced in the Volta region in Ghana, in spite of being outlawed in 1998, and despite carrying a minimum three-year prison sentence for conviction. Among the Ewes who practice the ritual in Ghana, variations of the practice are also called trokosi, fiashidi, and woryokwe, with "trokosi" being the most common of those terms. In Togo and Benin it is called voodoosi or vudusi. Victims are commonly known in Ghana as fetish slaves because the gods of African Traditional Religion are popularly referred to as fetishes and the priests who serve them as fetish priests.Traditional African religions
The traditional African religions (or traditional beliefs and practices of African people) are a set of highly diverse beliefs that include various ethnic religions. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonizing nature with the supernatural. According to Lugira, "it is the only religion that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world."Yoruba religion
The Yoruba religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practice of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in present-day Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, commonly known as Yorubaland. It shares some parallels with the Vodun practiced by the neighboring Fon and Ewe peoples to the west and to the religion of the Edo people to the east. Yoruba religion is the basis for a number of religions in the New World, notably Santería, Umbanda, Trinidad Orisha and Candomblé. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of Itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories, and other cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba society.
Religion in Africa
See also: Afro-American religion