Religion in Mozambique

Religion in Mozambique (2007 census)

  Christianity (56.1%)
  No religion (18.7%)
  Islam (17.9%)
  Other/Unknown (7.3%)
A Muslim worshiper awaits by the door of a Mozambique mosque
Hindu temple in Salamanga

According to the most recent census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics in 2007, 56.1% of the population of Mozambique were Christian, 17.9% were Muslim (mainly Sunni), 18.7% had no religion, and 7.3% adhered to other beliefs.[1] These figures need to be used with great care as they are quite problematic [2]

Religious communities are dispersed throughout the country.[3] The northern provinces are predominantly Muslim, particularly along the coastal strip, but some areas of the northern interior have a stronger concentration of Protestant or Catholic communities.[3] Protestants and Catholics are generally more numerous in the southern and central regions, but Muslim minority populations are also present in these areas.[3]

The National Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Ministry of Justice states evangelical Christians represent the fastest growing religious group in the country.[3] Generally religious communities tend to draw their members from across ethnic, political, economic, and racial lines.[3]

There are 732 religious denominations and 144 religious organizations registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice.[3] During the reporting period 10 denominations and 20 religious organizations were registered.[3] Major Christian religious groups include Anglican, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Congregational, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, as well as evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches.[3] Many small, independent Protestant and Catholic churches that have split from mainstream denominations fuse African traditional beliefs and practices within a Christian framework.[3]

The overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunni belonging to Shafi school of jurisprudence influenced with Sufism, with a tiny Shi'a minority (a few families) principally of South Asian origin.[3] The growing South Asian immigrant population is predominantly Sunni Muslim and follows the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence.[3] The three principal Islamic organizations are the Islamic Congress, the Islamic Council, and the [Asian] Muslim Community.[3] The Kuwaiti-funded and Sudanese-managed nongovernmental organization (NGO) African Muslim Agency conducted humanitarian work, as did the Muslim development agency Aga Khan.[3]

Jewish, Hindu, and Bahá'í Faith groups are registered and constitute a very small percentage of the population.[3]

The country's leading mosques and the Catholic Church have tried to eliminate some traditional indigenous practices from their places of worship, instituting practices that reflect a stricter interpretation of sacred texts; however, some Christian and Muslim adherents continue to incorporate traditional practices and rituals, and religious authorities have generally been permissive of such practices.[3]

Foreign missionary groups operate freely in the country.[3] Some groups offer religious teaching centers to their local communities, while others provide scholarships for students to study in their respective countries.[3]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.[3]

Census results

Religious affiliation in Mozambique
Affiliation 1997 census[4] 2007 census[5][1]
Christian 49.1% 56.1%
Catholic 23.8% 28.4%
Zionist Christian 17.5% 15.5%
Evangelical 7.8%[note 1] 10.9%
Anglican -[note 2] 1.3%
Muslim 17.8% 17.9%
None 23.1% 18.7%
Other/Unknown 10.0% 7.3%
  1. In the 1997 census "Evangelical" was merged with "Protestant".
  2. The 1997 census did not have a separate category for "Anglican".

Anti-Religious Campaign 1979-1982

The ruling party of Mozambique since independence, known as Frelimo, became predominantly Marxist during the liberation war. After independence, it declared the state secular and it nationalised all schools and health facilities, until then owned and run in their majority by religious institutions. Faced by resistance, the new state imprisoned some clerics in 1975 and 1976 and banned all Jehovah's Witnesses to a district in Zambezia in 1977.[6][7]

In response to the changes in the social and religious situation after Mozambique, the Roman Catholic Church vented public criticism. Catholic bishops condemned a godless society and criticised the death penalty and re-education camps. In 1978 it decided to transform into a church of communities, something the state understood as a move towards resistance to Socialism, rather than the collaboration stated by some Bishops. The result was an outright attack on all religion on the part of the state.[8]

From early 1979, the regime attempted to discredit the church on the basis of the history of the colonial church, and it began a campaign to close churches, prevent religious activities and restrict the movements of religious staff. Catholic and other religious institutions resisted, more or less openly. By 1980, resistance was often open and bad international criticism was rife, something which convinced Frelimo to change its stance.[6]

Several Protestant groups in Mozambique had strong allegiance to the Frelimo government, potentially because many in the Frelimo leadership (including the late national hero Eduardo Mondlane) had been trained in Protestant schools and the World Council of Churches had supported the Mozambique institute in Dar es Salaam during the war of liberation.[9] But many non-Catholic churches suffered much nonetheless, not least the Jehovah's Witnesses who were all deported to Zambezia and the Nazarene Church which saw many of its missionaries imprisoned.

Islam suffered probably the most during the Anti-religious campaign, because of the plain misunderstanding or prejudice of the Frelimo leadership. Ministers thought, for example, that raising pigs was a good idea to combat underdevelopment and they genuinely did not understand resistance on the part of Muslims in the north of the country. Some long-lasting trauma was thus created.[10]

Renamo benefitted from Frelimo's anti-religious attack. Some campaigning was done nationally and internationally by the rebel movement on the subject of religion already in 1978, but with little long-lasting impact - only some radical American and English Pentecostal groups openly sided with Renamo. The guerilla stance was indeed eventually ambiguous in relation to religious institutions, and the movement did not hesitate to take religious hostages or kill missionaries, national priests, pastors or nuns.

The anti-religious campaign of Frelimo formally ended in 1982 when the party in power held a big meeting with all the main religious institutions. On that occasion, it claimed mistakes had been made and national unity needed to prevail. State control of religious institutions continued after 1982, but the state attack on faith had come to an end.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 The World Factbook - Mozambique
  2. Eric Morier-Genoud, “Renouveau religieux et politique au Mozambique: entre permanence, rupture et historicité”, Politique africaine, n°134, June 2014, pp.155-177
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 International Religious Freedom Report 2010: Mozambique. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. 1997 Census of Mozambique
  5. 2007 Census of Mozambique
  6. 1 2 Eric morier-Genoud, “Of God and Caesar: The Relation between Christian Churches and the State in post-Colonial Mozambique, 1974-1981”, Le Fait Missionnaire (Lausanne), n°3, September 1996
  7. "As feridas abertas pelo processo de reeducação em Moçambique" [The wounds opened by the re-education process in Mozambique]. Deutsche Welle (in Portuguese). Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  8. Serapiao, Luis Benjamim. "The Catholic Church and conflict resolution in Mozambique's post-colonial conflict, 1977-1992." Journal of Church and State 46.2 (2004)
  9. Serapiao, Luis Benjamim. "The Catholic Church and conflict resolution in Mozambique's post-colonial conflict, 1977-1992." Journal of Church and State 46.2 (2004)
  10. Eric Morier-Genoud, “L’Islam au Mozambique après l’indépendance. Histoire d’une montée en puissance”, L’Afrique Politique 2002, Paris: Karthala, 2002, pp. 123-146.
  11. FRELIMO (1983) "Consolidemos aquilo que nos une": reunião da Direcção do Partido e do Estado com os representantes das confissões religiosas 14 a 17 de Dezembro de 1982, Imprensa Nacional de Moçambique, Maputo
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