BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
APRIL 15, 2010
Most Africans are now Muslim or Christian, but many of them retain their traditional religions, according to a major new survey released today.
More than 90% of people who live in sub-Saharan countries in Africa are either Muslim or Christian – a big change from 100 years ago when less than a quarter practiced the two religions. In 1900, most practiced traditional African religions, the report said.
The survey was done on behalf of the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in more than 60 languages in 19 African nations, representing about 75% of the total population in sub-Saharan Africa.
In metro Detroit, the African immigrant community is also generally Muslim or Christian. Nigerian-Americans in metro Detroit, for example, are usually either Muslim or Catholic, say local leaders.
The survey showed the sweeping religious changes in Africa over the past 100 years as more increasingly became Christian or Muslim due to the influence of Arabs and Europeans. But many keep their ancient traditions. About 27 percent, for example, maintain traditions related to the revering of ancestors and spirits.
The survey also showed that Africans tend to be highly religious. About 90% say religion is very important in their lives.
The Pew Survey was based on more than 25,000 interviews. It comes at a time of renewed interest in the ancient religions of sub-Saharan Africa.
V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is to have a book published in October entitled "The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief,” which is about the old religions of Africa that are fading away.
To read the full Pew report, visit http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=515