By far the most important religions in Africa are
Christianity, Islam and indigenous African religions. In
modern times, Islam and Christianity have increased rapidly
at the expense of the African religions. However, domestic
beliefs and attitudes continue to exist to a greater or
lesser extent also within the framework of world religions,
giving them an African feel. For the indigenous religions
Christianity was brought to Africa by the beginning of
the century, first to Egypt (Alexandria), then to the
provinces of Africa and Numidia, ie. present Tunisia and
Algeria (Carthage). In this western area, the Christian
Latin was created. Significant African theologians were
Origen and Kyrillos in Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian and
Augustine in Africa and Numidia. Christianity also spread to
the Coptic countryside of Egypt. During the 300s, this sea
route came to Ethiopia, a little later to Nubia.
The arrival of Islam put Christianity in a minority
situation. While it largely disappeared in Maghreb (former
Africa and Numidia), the Coptic church remained in Egypt in
co-existence with the Muslim government. The Nubian church
was obliterated, while the Ethiopian retained his position.
From the 16th century, new mission initiatives came in
connection with colonial expansion. This also characterized
the distribution of societies: the Catholic Church dominated
in Belgian, French and Portuguese colonies, Protestant
churches in British and German colonies.
During the 20th century, the African Christianity
expanded very rapidly and in competition with Islam. The
desire for political and cultural independence has often
been expressed in domestic prophet movements (eg
Kimbangism). In connection with the decolonization after the
Second World War, a large number of independent African
churches have emerged. The Catholic Church in Africa also
has a conscious domestic character. Many church leaders
(such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu) are strongly involved in
the political liberation from the remnants of colonialism,
and a "black theology" has been trained; a form of African
liberation theology. There are also a great deal of
charismatic movements with local prophets. The previously
tense relations between Catholic and Protestant missions
have now often been replaced by ecumenical cooperation.
Of the old churches in Africa, especially the Coptic
church shows great vitality, but also the Ethiopian church
has a strong position as a folk church.
The number of Christians is estimated at 200-300 million.
Islam is the dominant religion in North Africa and state
religion in all North African countries as well as in
Mauritania and Somalia. It spread in northern Africa as
early as Muhammad's own century (600s) and is therefore
deeply rooted. Especially through Arab and Berber trade,
Islam during the Middle Ages also spread to the sub-Saharan
Africa, mainly in urban environments. However, more
extensive Islamic expansion in sub-Saharan Africa only
occurred during the colonial era. Like Christianity, Islam
came to be favored by Western colonialism. Improved
communications, urbanization and the fact that colonial
regimes often used literate Muslims in the local
administration were some of the factors that contributed to
Islam's rapid spread.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Africa are
Sunnis. In Africa, the dividing line between Muslims who are
respectively not members of the many Sufis is much more
important than the division into Sunnis and Shiites. Sufism
and the leaders of the various orders, which in North and
West Africa are often called marabots, generally
have a very strong position. The organizers not only have a
'mystic' religious character but are almost always involved
in social, economic and political issues as well. Sufism has
generally shown a very tolerant attitude towards indigenous
African beliefs and patterns of life.
The so-called fundamentalist Muslims are increasing in
numbers, as in other parts of the Muslim world. However, the
Muslim politicians sitting in power in North Africa and in
Muslim-dominated countries in sub-Saharan Africa have mainly
a "modernist" Islamist view, often in the form of an
idealistic (non-Marxist) socialism called "Islamic".
"Fundamentalism" is thus an opposition movement.
with representatives in Africa is above all Judaism
and Hinduism. Small groups of Jews are found both
in North Africa and in parts of sub-Saharan Africa (eg South
Africa). Particularly famous are the Falash Jews in
Ethiopia. The Hindus are essentially Indians who immigrated
to modern times and who live and work primarily as
businessmen in cities along the Indian Ocean.
A number of new religions have also emerged. An
interesting example is "Godianism", founded in 1948 by the
chief KO Onyioha in Nigeria and which reflects the influence
of Islam and Christianity on the domestic religiosity.