Sub-Saharan Africa is still prone to conflicts resulting from religion.
According to a report released recently by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, religion is “very important” to more than three-quarters of the population in 17 of 19 sub-Saharan nations where the survey was conducted.
More than 90 percent of the people interviewed in Rwanda, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, Guinea Bissau and Zambia said that religion is very important with the lowest figure being in Botswana at 69 percent.
This, compared to the United States of America, the world’s most religious developed nation where only 57 percent of people say religion is very important, makes Africa the most religious region in the world, followed by the Middle East with Europe coming last.
“On a continent-wide basis, Sub-Saharan Africa comes out as the most religious place on Earth and that begins to paint a picture of how religious Sub-Saharan Africans are” said Luis Lugo, the head of the institution that conducted the study.
The study which is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project interviewed more than 25,000 respondents in Sub-Saharan Africa in face to face interviews conducted in more than 60 languages.
The research also explored a variety of topics, including religious tolerance, polygamy, the role of women in society, morality in society and political and economic satisfaction as well as the role religion plays in conflict in Africa today
Islam and Christianity dominate as the most popular religions in the region — a stark reversal from a century ago when Muslims and Christians were outnumbered by followers of traditional indigenous religions.
But for the past 100 years, indigenous spirituality has been diluted as missionaries carried Islam and Christianity throughout the African continent.
The study reports that the number of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa grew faster than the number of Muslims, from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010.
One in five of the world’s Christians live in sub-Saharan Africa.
While a majority of African Muslims are from the northern region of the continent, nearly 234 million live below the Sahara Desert. Pentecostalism is rapidly spreading and deeply influential across the region, and also across Christian denominations.
“Casting out of the devil or evil spirits, high degree of apocalyptic expectations, the health-and-wealth `prosperity gospel’ is the new Christian phenomenon of the Pentecostalism in sub-Saharan Africa,” Lugo said.